Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 21 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 Russian Federation Armed Forces representative at the JCCC expressed the intention of moving out of Debaltseve due to the deteriorating security situation. The SMM visited the crossing point in Uspenka, at the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
In Kharkiv the SMM spoke with police and regional Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) representatives who confirmed that an explosion had taken place on 19 January, close to the building of a court in the city’s Moscow district. According to the interlocutors the incident, which has resulted in 14 injured, six of whom are in a serious condition, has been classified as an act of terrorism.
On 21 January the SMM observed that the bridge over the Sievierskyi Donetsk River near Stanytsia Luhanska (20km north of Luhansk, government-controlled) had been seriously damaged by what appeared to be an explosive ordnance. The SMM also noticed parts of a destroyed vehicle, located on the side of the bridge, on “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled territory. As the SMM crossed the bridge it was stopped at a checkpoint manned by armed persons affiliated to the “LPR”, who appeared to be waiting for instructions from their superiors. After approximately two hours the SMM was allowed to proceed further towards Luhansk city.
The SMM was informed by state- and non-state actors about the existence of Order No. 144 governing restriction of freedom of movement to and out of the territories not controlled by the Government (see SMM Daily Report 13 January). The SMM observed that the new rules of movement are being implemented at the moment. In government-controlled Starobilsk (90km north of Luhansk), at the “Anti-Terrorism Operation” (“ATO”) Co-ordination Centre, the SMM was informed that the centre has received approximately 2,000 individual requests for permits allowing movement to and from areas not controlled by the Government and that currently 156 such permits have been issued. On 21 January the SMM spoke to Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers at a number of checkpoints located outside Hirske (69km west of Luhansk, government-controlled). The soldiers informed the SMM that a number of civilian vehicles – cars and trucks – had been refused passage during the day as the drivers did not have the permits required to cross into “LPR”-controlled territory.
At the JCCC headquarters in government-controlled Debaltseve (55km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed that members of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “LPR” were absent. The Ukrainian Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC and the Russian Major-General, Representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the JCCC, indicated that in the preceding 24hrs the general situation had not changed and remained very tense. In particular, the deterioration of the security situation in Debaltseve and environs, since the Grad attack on 19 January, caused considerable concern for the Russian Major-General who stated that, in consultation with the General Staff in Moscow, he intended to evacuate all Russian Federation officers to Soledar (77km north of Donetsk, government-controlled), as of 21 January. According to the Russian Major-General an official letter stating that the Russian Federation representatives to the JCCC would continue to execute their mandate in Soledar had been handed to the Ukrainian Major-General who in turn stated that he and his officers would remain in Debaltseve and continue to perform their duty.
Whilst in government-controlled Pavlopil (80km south of Donetsk) the SMM was blocked by cross fire coming from both an easterly and westerly direction. The SMM contacted the JCCC requesting a local cease fire which would allow the SMM a safe passage. As the firing came to a halt, the SMM left the area and it observed that a number of civilian cars also used the localized ceasefire to leave the village.
At the “DPR”-controlled border crossing point in Uspenka (94km south-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed seven armed “border crossing guards” and three “customs officers” affiliated to the “DPR” on duty at the crossing point. The SMM, which remained at the border crossing point for approximately 90 minutes, observed that the flow of outbound traffic was very heavy with 96 vehicles, mostly small cars and minivans, waiting to cross into the Russian Federation, whilst little traffic was observed coming from the opposite direction. The SMM spoke with a group of civilians, men, women and children of different ages, who were leaving “DPR”-controlled area for the Russian Federation. The interlocutors, coming from Donetsk, Makiivka (16km east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), Horlivka (40km north-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) Razdolne (60km south-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) and Starobesheve (43km south-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) told the SMM that they were leaving because of the recent shelling and social and economic problems they faced living in “DPR”-controlled areas. All of the families expressed their desire to return to their homes when the conflict was over. They stated that they were leaving to stay with family members in Rostov and Krasnodar Kray, in the Southern Federal District of Russia. The SMM also observed two busses bound for Moscow passing through the checkpoint. The driver of one of the busses stated that his company runs buses twice a day from Donetsk to Moscow.
On 21 January the SMM met with the head of the regional police department in Zaporizhzhia (67km south of Dnipropetrovsk) who stated that the explosion which had taken place at the bridge near Rozivka (see SMM Daily Report 20 January) had affected a railway connecting Zaporizhzhia and Mariupol, used to supply the Mariupol steel factory and the “Anti-Terrorism Operation” (“ATO”) zone. The explosion, which caused minor damage to the rails, had occurred as a cargo train transporting iron ore crossed the bridge. The incident, according to the interlocutor, has been classified as a terrorism act and is being investigated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) with the support of the police. The SMM visited the village of Rozivka (85km south-west of Donetsk) in the Zaporizhzhia region, to verify damage to the railway bridge at that location. The SMM observed that the bridge appeared to be damaged by an explosive device placed on a supporting pillar.
On 21 January the SMM visited the Chaplynka crossing point (120km south of Kherson) at the administrative boundary line (ABL) between Ukrainian mainland and Crimea, where a Ukrainian border guard officer said that since 26 December all types of buses, even empty ones, were forbidden to cross the ABL in either direction. The SMM spoke with the driver of a public bus carrying 16 passengers, both men and women, who had been waiting for the passengers to be picked up on the other side of the ABL by a bus from the Crimean side. The SMM observed how the passengers walked across the ABL (approximately 700 metres) in small groups after their documents had been checked by Ukrainian border guards.
In Odesa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Lviv and Kyiv the situation remained calm.