Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 13 January 2015
This report is for media and the general public.
The SMM continued to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum and the work of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC). A Grad rocket exploded near a civilian bus at a Ukrainian Army Checkpoint near Volnovakha, killing 12 civilians and injuring 17.
The SMM met the head of the newly established co-ordination centre at the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) premises in government-controlled Starobilsk (90km north of Luhansk). The SMM was informed that the co-ordination centre would be responsible for the implementation of order 144 “T” issued by the “Anti-Terrorism Operation” (“ATO”) operational headquarters on 29 December 2014. He explained that order 144 “T”, which will enter into force on 21 January, aims to improve the control of people and vehicles traveling to and from areas that are not under the control of the government. The order will require all those wishing to travel between government-controlled areas and territories controlled by the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) to obtain a permit, which will be necessary for both individuals and vehicles, including public transport.
At approximately 14:35hrs the regional traffic police confirmed to the SMM that a Grad rocket struck close to a civilian bus when it stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint approximately 2km north of Volnovakha (35 km south-west of Donetsk). The SMM arrived at the location of the incident at 17:45hrs and witnessed the removal of two of the dead from the bus. The bus had shrapnel damage consistent with a nearby rocket impact, estimated by the SMM to be 12-15 meters from the side of the bus. The SMM visited the Volnovakha hospital where the staff confirmed that ten persons on the bus were killed instantly, while two died later in the hospital. Another 17 passengers were injured. Following a proposal from the SMM, the Ukrainian Major-General and Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC and the Russian Federation Major-General, representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the JCCC and the “DPR” leadership have agreed to conduct a joint investigation led by the JCCC. In parallel, the SMM will continue its observations and establish its own findings regarding the incident.
The SMM in Donetsk city heard shelling from around Donetsk airport throughout 13 January, intensifying during the day.
When contacted by the SMM, the Ukrainian Major-General and the Russian Federation Major-General of the JCCC said to the SMM that during the 24-hour period from 08:00hrs on 12 January to 08:00hrs on 13 January, 131 ceasefire violations were recorded: 54 reported by the Ukrainian Armed Forces; and 77 by the “DPR”/”LPR”. Of these incidents 56 were recorded at the Donetsk airport, in government-controlled Pisky (11km north-west of Donetsk) and government-controlled Opytne (10km north-north-west of Donetsk). The Ukrainian Major-General reported that one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and eight wounded during this time period.
The SMM visited JCCC Sectors A and S duty rooms in Luhansk city. The Ukrainian and Russian Federation JCCC representatives said to the SMM that there were several incidents recorded in the previous 48 hours including the shelling of Slavyanoserbsk (35km north-west of Luhansk) which reportedly resulted in 87 private houses and 6 administrative buildings sustaining damages.
The SMM visited Chermalyk and Orlivske (72 and 79km south of Donetsk), located in between government-controlled and “DPR”-controlled territories. In Chermalyk the SMM heard shelling which it estimated to have occurred in an area 5-15km north of Chermalyk but could not ascertain whether it was outgoing or incoming. In Chermalyk, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and several villagers said to the SMM that shelling had taken place in the area on a daily basis for the past week.
The head of the Chermalyk village council said to the SMM that since 4 January the village had no access to drinking water due a damaged pipe located in an area that has been under constant shelling. Similarly, in Orlivske the SMM spoke to several villagers who said that they had no access to drinking water for the past 5 months due to the lack of supply as a result of local authorities having stopped water delivery. As such, they had resorted to collecting rainwater or melting snow. The residents also said that for the past month the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint had not allowed private vehicles to pass, thus limiting their freedom of movement and access to medical care. Children are reportedly unable to attend school as the road goes through a potentially hazardous and dangerous area.
At a “DPR” checkpoint located in Oktyabr (85 south of Donetsk) the SMM attempted to discuss with the “DPR” members manning the checkpoint the possibility of the Ukrainian Armed Forces gaining temporary access to Kominternove (88km south of Donestk) in order to neutralize unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the kindergarten yard which have been a risk for the children of the village (See SMM Daily Report 29 December). The checkpoint “commander” displayed a strong hostility towards the SMM and ordered his staff to search the SMM vehicle stating to the patrol members that they would be shot if a camera was found in the vehicle. When allowed to regain their vehicle, the SMM noticed two kneeling riflemen aiming their weapons at the patrol members. The SMM departed without further incidents.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) confirmed to the SMM that unknown persons had used a rocket-propelled grenade in an attempt to hit a gas tank located within the compound of the Kharkiv regional gas company on the night of 11-12 January, causing no injuries and minimal damage to the guards’ building. The SMM was not allowed access to the scene and the company’s head of security was not allowed to share any details.
On 12 January, in Dnepropetrovsk, the SMM observed a public meeting organised by the city administration and aimed at discussing a programme to assist volunteer groups, soldiers and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The 4-year programme of 4 million UAH (approximately EUR 217,000) is earmarked for research, publications, roundtables and Volunteer Day celebrations. Some 80 representatives of various volunteer groups were present and expressed concerns over the implementation modalities and in particular the risks of embezzlement. The meeting participants voted to call for the city council to scrap the program in its current form.
In Odesa, the SMM monitored a press conference on the situation of disabled IDPs hosted at sanatorium "Esperanza" in Serhiivka (82km south-west of Odessa). The IDP representatives, the director of the sanatorium and the NGO President of the European Association for the Rights of Disabled People described their situation in terms of lack of food, transportation and medical care. The IDPs from the sanatorium have commenced a five-day hunger strike to draw the Ukrainian Government’s attention to their living conditions.
In Lviv the SMM observed a press conference by the Western Military Media Centre of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, attended by seven, mostly female journalists where the new rules on access to the “ATO” zone were explained. The journalists were informed that they would only be allowed to enter with press cards issued by the SBU.
The situation in Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Kyiv was calm.