Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 17 March 2017
The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions compared with the previous reporting period. The Mission followed up on civilian casualties in Donetsk and Valiuske, and observed damage to civilian property in Horlivka and Dokuchaievsk. The Mission monitored the disengagement areas in Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske, but its access remained restricted.* The SMM camera recorded ceasefire violations inside the Zolote area. The Mission saw for the first time anti-tank mines in government-controlled parts of that area and heard an explosion assessed as the impact of an artillery round inside the area. The SMM observed weapons in violation of withdrawal lines and missing from storage sites. It visited a border area currently not under government control. The Mission continued to monitor the blockade of routes crossing the contact line and monitored a session of a regional council, which supported the blockade and the related recent decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. It monitored the continuation of a protest outside a bank office in Kyiv and a protest in front of the Russian Federation Consulate General in Odessa.
In Donetsk region the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including about 540 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 700 explosions).
On the evening of 16 March, while in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard 29 undetermined explosions at locations 4-8km ranging from north-west to north-north-west. The same evening, the SMM camera at the Oktiabr mine (9km north-west of Donetsk city centre) recorded one undetermined explosion 6-8km north-east.
On the night of 16-17 March the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded five undetermined explosions, followed by 20 tracer rounds in flight from west to east and 13 undetermined explosions, all 4-6km south-east. During the following day, positioned in Avdiivka for four and a half hours, the SMM recorded no ceasefire violations. Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard 24 undetermined explosions 3-5km at locations ranging from south-east to north-east.
On the basis of security guarantees facilitated by the JCCC, the SMM visited the Donetsk Water Filtration Station to monitor adherence to the ceasefire for demining and restoration of water supply to areas on both sides of the contact line. From that position, 4km west of Yasynuvata, the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 2km south-west. One minute after the last undetermined explosion, the SMM heard a bullet fly above their heads and heard a shot of small-arms fire 100-200m south. The SMM immediately left the area. (See SMM Spot Report 17 March 2017.)
On the night of 16 March, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard two undetermined explosions, and overlapping bursts and shots of heavy machine-gun and small-arms fire, mostly 3-5km south-east. Early the next morning, from the same location, the SMM heard 182 explosions: 133 undetermined, 31 assessed as rounds from recoilless gun (SPG-9, 73mm) and 17 assessed as the impacts of unidentified weapon systems 3-6km at locations ranging from east to south. In the afternoon, while in Svitlodarsk the SMM heard three explosions assessed as outgoing rounds from unidentified weapons, four undetermined explosions assessed as caused by recoilless gun rounds (SPG-9, 73mm), and 20 undetermined explosions 4-6km east-south-east and south-east.
During the day of 17 March, positioned at the eastern edge of government-controlled Sopyne (16km east of Mariupol) the SMM heard 20 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds and 31 explosions assessed as the impacts of rounds from unidentified weapons 2-5km south-east, heard and saw three airbursts, and heard one undetermined explosion – all at undetermined distances north-east. Positioned 3km north-west of government-controlled Lebedynske (16km north-east of Mariupol) the SMM heard 83 explosions, including: 60 undetermined and 10 assessed as outgoing rounds from unidentified weapons 4km east-north-east; five undetermined 6-7km east and five 10km south. Positioned 3km north of government-controlled Hnutove (20km north-east) the SMM heard 20 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds from multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) and subsequently explosions assessed as their impacts at undetermined distances north and north-east. On the early afternoon, while in government-controlled Mariupol (102km south of Donetsk) the SMM heard 37 undetermined explosions to the north-east.
In Luhansk region the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including 14 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 360). Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Kalynove (60km west of Luhansk), for less than half an hour, the SMM heard one explosion assessed as the impact of an artillery round of unknown calibre 3km north-west and one outgoing explosion 10km south-east. Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Kalynove-Borshchuvate (61km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard one explosion assessed as the impact of a mortar round of unknown calibre 3km west. Positioned 2km south of government-controlled Staryi Aidar (20km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard two undetermined explosions 10km south-west. Positioned in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk) the SMM heard one undetermined explosion 4km south-east.
The SMM followed up on reports of civilian casualties and observed damage to civilian property. The SMM followed up on media reports of casualties in Donetsk city. At 1A Kolkhozna Street in Kuibyshevskyi district (“DPR”-controlled, 5km north-west of Donetsk city centre) the SMM saw a hole in the north-west facing wall above the ninth floor, immediately below the roofline, which it assessed as probably caused by an artillery round (122mm). An unarmed man who introduced himself as the supervisor of the construction team repairing the uninhabited building told the SMM that four workers repairing the roof on the afternoon of 13 March had suffered concussions, but had refused hospitalization.
The SMM followed up on reports of a boy wounded in government-controlled Valuiske (20km north-east of Luhansk) on 16 March. Medical staff at the hospital in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) told the SMM that a 15-year-old boy from Valuiske had been admitted on the evening of 16 March with a bullet wound to his left thigh. The SMM saw a bandage on the boy’s left thigh. He said that he had been injured by a single shot on the evening of 16 March in front of his home on Zhovtneva Street.
In “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (32km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM followed up on a shelling reported by a Russian officer of the JCCC. Accompanied by a Russian officer of the JCCC, the SMM saw two fresh impact sites. At 40 Druzhby Street the SMM saw a hole in the western side of a roof and assessed that the projectile had penetrated the roof and exploded in the hall. The SMM saw shrapnel damage to a wall in the hall. The owner told the SMM the shelling had occurred on the morning of 16 March, when he had been in the yard with four of his children, while his wife and their other five children had been in the house. He added that no one had been injured. The SMM assessed the damage as having been caused by a 30mm projectile fired from a west-south-westerly direction. At an apartment building (15 Vatutina Street), the SMM saw a hole in the window of a first floor apartment on the west-facing façade. The owner told the SMM he had been away when the incident had happened and no one had been injured. A next-door neighbour told the SMM that she had heard the shelling around midnight on 7-8 March. The SMM assessed the damage as having been caused by a 30mm projectile fired from a south-westerly direction.
The SMM also followed up on shelling in Horlivka reported by a Russian officer of the JCCC. Accompanied by a Russian officer of the JCCC, the Mission saw damage at four houses. At 33 Bohdana Khmelnytskoho Street, the SMM saw shrapnel damage on the door of the hall, and two broken windows and shrapnel damage to the ceiling of the living room. The SMM assessed the damage had been caused by an unknown projectile fired from a north-north-westerly direction. At, 3/7 Sedova Street the SMM saw a large hole on the south-facing wall of the bathroom. The SMM saw damage it assessed as caused by an airburst in a yard between 1 and 6 Starobilska Street. At the former, an apartment block, the SMM saw eight east-facing windows were broken. At the latter the SMM saw two west-facing broken windows and noted shrapnel damage to a tree. The owners of all four houses told the SMM that the damage had occurred shortly after midnight on the night of 15-16 March.
The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas of Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), Zolote (60km west of Luhansk) and Petrivske (41km south of Donetsk), as foreseen in the Framework Decision of the Trilateral Contact Group relating to disengagement of forces and hardware of 21 September. The SMM’s access remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*
In violation of the framework decision, the SMM observed for the first time in government-controlled parts of the Zolote disengagement area at least 50 anti-tank mines in a field about 150 metres south of the paved road, inside the area. Near government-controlled Katerynivka (64km west of Luhansk), the SMM saw for the first time another 17 anti-tank mines on an open field, about 10 metres south-east of the asphalt road, outside the disengagement area.
On the night of 15 March the SMM camera in Zolote recorded, in sequence: three undetermined explosions 8km south-east, one 6.5km south-east, one 8km south, one undetermined explosion 4km south-south-east, one 4km south and one 4km south-south-east. The SMM assessed all explosions as taking place outside the disengagement area. On 17 March, positioned at the “LPR” checkpoint at the southern edge of the disengagement area the SMM heard one undetermined explosion assessed as caused by an artillery round of unknown calibre 4km west (outside the disengagement area). The SMM also heard one explosion assessed as the impact of an artillery round of unknown calibre and saw a column of smoke rising 600 metres north of its position, which it assessed as inside the disengagement area. From the same position, two hours later, the SMM heard one undetermined explosion 5-10km west-south-west of its position, which it assessed as outside the disengagement area.
Positioned north-east of government-controlled Bohdanivka (41km south-west of Donetsk), at the north-western edge of the Petrivske disengagement area for about six hours, the SMM heard eight bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire at an undetermined distance south-east (the SMM was not able to assess whether they occurred inside the disengagement area), and uncountable overlapping bursts of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire at an undetermined distance north-north-west. Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske for about one and a half hours, the SMM heard 26 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire and four shots of small-arms fire 2-3km south-east (assessed as outside the disengagement area).
The SMM noted a calm situation in the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area.
The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, in implementation of the Package of Measures, its Addendum, and the Memorandum.
In violation of the respective withdrawal line, the SMM also directly observed in government-controlled areas five self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) near Soledar (79km north of Donetsk).
Beyond withdrawal lines but outside storage site the SMM saw in government-controlled areas: two tanks (T-64) being loaded onto two flatbed trailers and two stationary tanks (T-64) 5km west of Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk), on the T1306 and one tank (T-64) heading east 4km east of Novoaidar; one tank (T-64) on a flatbed trailer moving south near Lysychansk (75km north-west of Luhansk) and two tanks (T-64) on flatbed trucks stationary on a road near Aidar-Mykolaivka (53km north-west of Luhansk).
The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage does not comply with the criteria set out in the 16 October 2015 notification. In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw six self-propelled howitzers (2S1, 122mm) and noted as missing 16 self-propelled howitzers (2S1, 122mm) and 52 anti-tank guns (49 MT-12 Rapira, 100mm and three D-48, 85mm).
The SMM revisited a permanent storage site in “LPR”-controlled areas, whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines and noted that five tanks (three T64, two T72) were again missing. The SMM recorded additional weapons.
No side reported any response to previous SMM reports of weapons observed in violation of withdrawal lines or missing from storage sites. Nor did the JCCC report any contribution to the ceasefire in this regard.
The SMM also observed armoured combat vehicles in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw: four stationary infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) (BMP-2) at a checkpoint near Novotoshkivske (53km west of Luhansk); three stationary IFVs (BMP-2) and one IFV (BMP-2) moving east on the main street in Krymske (42km north-west of Luhansk); an armoured personnel carrier (APC) (BTR-3) under a camouflage net near Vozdvyzhenka (formerly Krasnyi Pakhar, 66km north-east of Donetsk). In areas not controlled by the Government, the SMM saw: one IFV (BMP-1) south of Styla (41km south of Donetsk); one APC (BTR-80) driving north on a road in Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk) and one IFV (BMP-2) being towed by a military-type truck travelling east.
Near Staryi Aidar, close to a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, the SMM saw a military excavator digging a large trench across the road leading south-west, blocking vehicle traffic. North-west of government-controlled Myronivka (64 north-east of Donetsk) the SMM saw empty propellant cases, ammunition boxes and trees damaged by shrapnel.
On 16 March near government-controlled Bakhmut (formerly Artemivsk, 67km north of Donetsk), the SMM saw for the first time a police checkpoint and four officers inspecting a civilian car.
The SMM continued to note long queues of civilians at entry-exit checkpoints. At the Ukrainian Armed Forces entry-exit checkpoint on the H15 road near Marinka, the SMM saw 270 civilian cars, one bus and approximately 150 people in a queue to exit government-controlled areas; and 100 civilian cars, two buses and about 100 people in a queue to travel in the opposite direction.
The SMM monitored one border area currently outside government control. At the Leonove (formerly Chervonyi Zhovten, 82km south of Luhansk) border crossing point the SMM saw that road barriers had been removed (see SMM Daily Report 11 September 2016) and in half an hour noted a calm situation. An armed “LPR” member told the SMM that the crossing point remained closed.
The SMM continued to monitor the blockade of railway routes across the contact line. In government-controlled Hirske (63km west of Luhansk), the SMM saw that wooden barriers and barbed wire were still blocking the tracks. Twelve activists wearing military-style clothes were present. A police car was parked nearby. At the junction in Karbonit (part of Zolote), where the SMM had seen blockade participants, the Mission saw five men removing debris and noted all roads were clear for traffic. (See SMM Daily Report 8 March 2017.)
On 16 March, in Uzhhorod (170km west of Ivano-Frankivsk), the SMM monitored an extraordinary session of the regional council where a decision to send a petition to the national authorities to stop trade with non-government controlled areas and in support of the decision of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine that came into force on 14 March, was approved unanimously. The SMM saw about 50 police officers and ten National Guard officers present inside and outside the building.
On 16 March, in Odessa the SMM monitored a protest in front of the Russian Federation Consulate General. The SMM saw 75 activists (mostly men, of all age groups) bearing insignia and waving flags of the Odessa Automaidan, Maidan Self-Defence and Governmental Initiative of Yarosh. Most men wore military-style outfits. The SMM saw posters with messages related to the situation in Crimea. The Mission also saw 15 police officers and ten National Guard officers. No incidents were observed.
In Kyiv, the SMM continued to monitor a protest outside a bank. (See SMM Daily Report 17 March 2017.) The SMM saw about 20 young men and that the vehicle entrance remained blocked. The SMM noted a calm situation and no law enforcement officers present.
On 17 March the SMM monitored a public gathering at the opening of a new TV and radio broadcasting tower in Chonhar village (163km south-east of Kherson), about 2km from the administrative boundary line between Kherson and Crimea. The ceremony was attended by Ukrainian national and regional officials, one of whom said that broadcast would be in Ukrainian, Tatar and Russian languages. The SMM saw about 120 people (mostly men) and noted a large media presence. There were also groups of unarmed military personnel, Border Guards and Asker members and police officers.
The SMM continued monitoring in Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Chernivtsi.
*Restrictions of SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate
The SMM’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and other impediments – which vary from day to day. The SMM’s mandate provides for safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. All signatories of the Package of Measures have agreed on the need for this safe and secure access, that restriction of the SMM’s freedom of movement constitutes a violation, and on the need for rapid response to these violations. They have also agreed that the JCCC should contribute to such response and co-ordinate mine clearance.
Denial of access:
- At the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area, a Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that its safety could still not be guaranteed in the areas surrounding the main road due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- The possible presence of mines and UXO prevented the SMM from travelling further south-east into the Zolote disengagement area from Katerynivka. The SMM again informed the JCCC.
- At an “LPR” checkpoint at the edge of the Zolote disengagement area, armed men told the SMM that its safety could still not be guaranteed in the fields and side roads due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel again stopped the SMM on the road between Katerynivka and Popasna and told the Mission that the road was mined and it could not proceed without authorization from senior Ukrainian Armed Forces officers. The SMM again saw an anti-tank barrier and a mine hazard sign. The Mission again informed the JCCC.
- A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not control the road from Bohdanivka to Viktorivka (42km south-west of Donetsk) and thus could not ensure security for the SMM to travel, adding that anti-tank mines were still present on the road to Petrivske via Viktorivka. The SMM informed the JCCC headquarters.
- The SMM could still not travel south of the bridge in government-controlled Shchastia as Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM again informed the JCCC.
 Despite the joint statement of 1 February by the Trilateral Contact Group and the consent reached on 15 February, the sides have not yet provided the baseline information requested by the SMM related to weapons to be withdrawn and locations of units and formations.
 This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.