Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 14 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). The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) gathered imagery and video data of shell impact craters at Volnovakha where a bus was hit on 13 January.
The SMM Deputy Chief Monitor met in Donetsk with the Ukrainian Major-General and Head of the Ukrainian side, and the Russian Federation Major-General, Representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”). The agenda included discussing an SMM initiative for conducting a JCCC-led investigation of the shelling which occurred on 13 January in government-controlled Volnovakha (35km south-west of Donetsk), resulting in 12 killed and 17 injured passengers in a bus. All sides agreed upon drafting a joint protocol that will mandate the JCCC to conduct a special investigation concerning this incident. The agreement included a security guarantee and free access to the incident site for the Russian Federation representatives at the JCCC and “DPR” members. The investigation is planned to take place on 15 January. The SMM will monitor the JCCC-led investigation, continue its observations and establish its own findings regarding the incident (see SMM Spot Report 14 January 2015).
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) conducted a flight over the Ukrainian checkpoint in Volnovakha and gathered imagery and video data of shell impact craters at the incident site where the passenger bus was hit on 13 January.
The SMM, together with JCCC representatives and “DPR” members attempted to conduct a joint patrol to Donetsk airport on 14 January. In meetings with SMM, all parties had guaranteed the SMM’s security. It had been agreed by all parties that troops located at the airport will cease fire on 14 January at 14:30hrs local time, but JCCC representatives and “DPR” failed to contain the situation despite the declared “regime of silence”. Due to incoming and outgoing shelling, consistent with heavy artillery and small arms and light weapons, directly observed by SMM, the patrol was discontinued and the airport was not reached.
According to the Ukrainian and Russian Federation officers in the JCCC in “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (22km south-west of Donetsk) the number of ceasefire violations has increased dramatically within their respective areas of responsibility in recent days. Both reported that on 13 January 2015 there was incoming artillery and BM-21 Grad rocket rounds both in daytime and night time, mainly from southern, south-eastern and eastern directions, as well as outgoing artillery fire from southern and eastern directions.
The SMM met with the “acting head” of the city council in “DPR”-controlled Khartsyzk (29km east of Donetsk), who stated that the railway connection between Ilovaisk (31km east of Donetsk), Makiivka (5km east of Donetsk) and Isnovataya (17km north-east of Donetsk), all “DPR”-controlled, was re-opened after reconstruction. He said that the railway to Uspenka at the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation will also soon be operational, without giving any precise date. Damage to both railways was caused by shelling. According to the interlocutor the “Bank of DPR” and a post office recently opened offices in Ilovaisk, giving people working in “DPR structures” and elderly people an opportunity to collect allowances from “DPR”.
In government-controlled Hranitne (57km south of Donetsk) the commander of a garrison of the Ukrainian Armed Forces confirmed to the SMM the death of a three-year old girl on 11 January. He said that mortar shells struck two houses in the north-eastern part of the village and subsequently seriously injured the girl, who then died on the way to Volnovakha hospital. Between 11:40hrs and 11:45hrs, the SMM observed what it assessed as four mortars of 120 mm impacting in the outskirts of the village. The last mortar impacted approximately 400 metres from where the SMM was located. According to the SMM the mortars were assessed to originate from a south-eastern direction. Due to security reasons, the SMM had to leave the site.
In Luhansk the SMM received information separately from Ukrainian Armed Forces and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) about heavy shelling which occurred in government-controlled Shchastiya (23km north of Luhansk). Both sides told the SMM on separate occasions that the Ukrainian Armed Forces and “LPR” exchanged tank fire, artillery, and machine gun fire. As independently reported by both sides, at least one civilian was killed and several wounded. Residents from Shchastiya contacted the SMM, saying that at 16:00hrs mortar fire had started and lasted approximately 15 minutes. Reportedly the residential area was damaged. The SMM could not independently verify this information due to the security situation.
In Shchastiya the SMM observed at 13:37hrs three outgoing heavy artillery shells. The SMM heard two outgoing heavy mortars, which were estimated to originate from an eastern direction. At 14:35hrs, on the road leading up to a Ukrainian checkpoint the SMM observed intensive small arms fire.
The SMM met together with the local Cossack “commander” and with the “LPR” in Rovenky (65km south of Luhansk). According to “LPR” their local structure functions in co-operation with the Cossack armed groups controlling the area. The Cossack “commander” said they assisted the “LPR” in keeping the local community functional, for example, through the distribution of humanitarian assistance and local “policing”.
The SMM met with the head of the regional police investigation department of Kherson to enquire about the pre-trial investigation related to the two explosion incidents of 27 December 2014 and 3 January 2015. According to the interlocutor the incidents are interrelated and a result of criminal acts, with no connection to extremism or terrorist activity. The suspected perpetrator has been arrested and is accused of robbery, murder, attempted murder, illegal possession and manufacturing of explosives and other charges.
The SMM continued to follow up on the bus transport to and from Crimea speaking with dispatchers at several bus stations in the region. According to SMM interlocutors, on 14 January three buses left Kherson towards Crimea, whereas no buses left from the Henichesk (207km south-east of Kherson) bus station to the peninsula.
In Kyiv the SMM observed a roundtable discussion focusing on ecological security in Donbas, organized by the previously Luhansk-based NGOs “Luhansk Coalition for Transparency of Governance” and the “Luhansk Human Rights Defense Group”, in co-operation with the Ukrainian State Environmental Agency. The speakers said that the Ukrainian Government is currently not able to confirm or even assess damage and possible destruction of 14 large chemical and industrial plants in Donbas due to a lack of access. According to the experts, the situation could jeopardize the safety of the local population in the region which had already been affected by other environmental hazards. Among other hazards, the speakers referred to the fact that the water accumulating in the coal mines, due to the stand-still caused by the conflict, was polluting the groundwater. A representative of the Ukrainian Ministry of Regional Development stated that due to financial reasons State control or inspections regarding the exploitation of nature and natural resources cannot be conducted in Ukraine as of 1 January.
The situation in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk was calm.