Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 23 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). In Odessa the SMM monitored a court hearing related to the 2 May events.
In Donetsk the SMM visited the “Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination” (“BFME”), four local hospitals and the “Central Emergency Service Station” in order to confirm the number of people killed and injured in the shelling incident which took place on 22 January in Kuprina Street (See SMM Spot Report 22 January). The “head” of “BFME” said that eight dead bodies were brought on 22 January from the site of the shelling incident - four males and four females. In total, according to the information collected from the hospitals in Donetsk, 24 people were injured: 13 of them were hospitalized – one person is in critical condition – and 11 were treated and released.
At a location near Makiivka (11 km east of Donetsk, “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled) on the road H21, the SMM observed six unmarked T-80 tanks moving west towards Donetsk. At the entrance of Zugres (34 km east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), also on the road H21, the SMM observed two armoured personal carriers heading east.
In government-controlled Novhorodske (34 km north of Donetsk) the SMM met the head and the deputy head of the local administration, who said that as a result of shelling, on 21 January, the underground electricity cables that supply power to the central water heating were damaged, leaving the town without heating and hot water supply. The interlocutors said that the town’s main source of employment is a major chemical plant producing phenol (carbolic acid). They expressed concern that should the chemical plant be shelled, it would result in a disaster for the residents and the environment, polluting both the ground water and the air. While in town, the SMM heard the sound of automatic grenade launchers, mortars, and at least one tank shot. The SMM also heard outgoing shelling concentrated at an approximate distance of 10 km in a north-easterly direction.
At the JCCC headquarters in government-controlled Debaltseve (55 km north-east of Donetsk) the Ukrainian Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, was present together with his officers. Officers of the Russian Federation Armed Forces were absent as they are currently in Soledar (77 km north of Donetsk, government-controlled), with “DPR” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) members. The Ukrainian Major-General told the SMM that on 22 January there was the shelling of Debaltseve, followed by tanks and infantry assaults, from the directions of Fashchivka (66 km north-east of Donetsk, “LPR- controlled), Chornukhyne (62 km north-east of Donetsk, “LPR”-controlled), Horlivka (35 km north-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) and Vuhlehirsk (48 km north-east of Donetsk, government-controlled). He also said that the most problematic areas in terms of security are Shchastiya (132 km north-east of Donetsk, government-controlled), Vesela Hora (131 km north-east of Donetsk, “LPR”-controlled), and Krymske (108 km north-east of Donetsk, government-controlled). According to the Major-General, intense fighting had also taken place in the area between the Donetsk airport and Avdiivka (14 km north-west of Donetsk, government-controlled).
On 23 January the SMM visited the JCCC duty room in Luhansk city, where the Russian Federation Armed Forces officer-in-charge told the SMM that due to security concerns the JCCC office in Velykyi Sukhodil (43 km south-east of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled) had been relocated to Luhansk city. He gave the SMM a copy of an “Application form to help ensure the safety of work” for companies intending to conduct maintenance or repair work in villages where shelling occurs. The companies are required to fill out the form and hand it to the JCCC in Luhansk. It is then sent to the JCCC headquarters in Debaltseve, which is meant to arrange a local ceasefire for the company.
On 23 January, when moving from an area close to the power station at Shchastiya (23km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) towards a checkpoint manned by Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers, located to the west of Shchastiya power station, the SMM heard five to six artillery rounds outgoing from the patrol’s northern side. Afterwards, the SMM heard four to six medium calibre artillery rounds that impacted to the south-east of the SMM vehicles at a distance of approximately 50-100 metres. Finally, one last medium calibre artillery round impacted to the south of the vehicles at a distance of approximately 50 metres. The SMM sustained no damage. The SMM could not ascertain the origin of the firing.
On 23 January, while in Smolianynove (75km north-west of Luhansk, government- controlled) the SMM heard artillery or heavy mortar shelling – incoming and outgoing – from the direction of Krymske (41 km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled). While close to Novookhtyrka (70 km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled), on the road to Muratove (66km north-west of Luhansk, government- controlled) the SMM heard outgoing mortar or artillery fire from approximately 500 metres west of its position.
On 22 January the SMM met with a representative of hospital no. 4, Centre for Acute Poisoning and Intoxication in Dnepropetrovsk, to follow up on reports that several soldiers returning from Donetsk Airport had suffered symptoms such as muscle spasms, vomiting and difficult breathing (see SMM Daily Report 20 January). The director said that seven soldiers were first admitted to the Mechnikov hospital and military hospitals in Dnepropetrovsk on 18 January with a variety of combat-related injuries, as well as exhibiting nausea, dizziness, headaches, and fainting. Those with such symptoms were transferred to hospital no. 4 for further testing. The director said the soldiers told him that they were exposed to smoke grenades on 15 and 16 January. He said the hospital performed toxicology tests on 18 January in order to determine the presence of carbon monoxide from smoke and/or gas toxins in the haemoglobin. Because the tests were negative, the presence of gas toxins could not be determined.
On 23 January the SMM met in Kherson with a representative of the non-governmental organization “KrimSOS” who said that the organization was aware of approximately 400 people, mostly men, originating from Crimea and recently released from prisons in mainland Ukraine, who are having difficulty with returning to Crimea. The interlocutor stated that authorities in the places of their origin in Crimea took their personal documents prior to their transfer to prisons in mainland Ukraine, while upon their release from prison in mainland Ukraine they received only a confirmation of release, which is not enough to allow them to cross the administrative boundary line (ABL). The SMM discussed this issue with the Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Kherson, who confirmed the problem and added that a similar situation exists with the recently released inmates in Crimea. The only document the former inmates received is a confirmation of release, which was not sufficient to cross the ABL to mainland Ukraine.
On 22 January in Odessa the SMM monitored the preliminary court hearings in the case concerning the 2 May clashes in Odessa city centre and in Kulykove Pole square. Inside the court building the SMM observed a crowd of approximately 50 people, half of whom were Euromaidan activists, mainly young and the other half Anti-Maidan activists, mainly older people. Within a few hours the SMM observed that the number of members of different self-defence groups present in the court reached 60-70. The number of police together with the judicial security unit ("Gryphon") outside the courthouse was approximately 20-25. The SMM saw approximately 20 Pro-Maidan activists, dressed in camouflage, attack a Kulykove Pole activist. Two police officers intervened and separated the activists. Then however, the Pro-Maidan activists started chasing a photojournalist down the street toward a nearby park. The SMM observed Pro-Maidan activists surrounding the photojournalist, beating him and taking his camera. Two police officers managed to convince the Pro-Maidan activists to stop and leave. At around 16:00hrs the situation had calmed down and no Pro-Maidan activists were observed by the SMM. The judges adjourned the court to 23 January when they would read out the decision on the measure of restraint. On 23 January, at the time of reporting, the court hearing was still ongoing.
In Kharkiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Lviv and Kyiv the situation remained calm.