Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 8 February 2015
This report is for the 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 SMM observed significant movement of military vehicles in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On 8 February the SMM visited the JCCC headquarters, temporarily relocated to Soledar (77km north of Donetsk, government-controlled), where Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces officers were present with members of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). 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 at the JCCC, told the SMM about a Russian initiative for a de-militarized zone, which had been sent to the Ukrainian and Russian Armed Forces General Staffs for further discussion.
Commenting on the evacuation of civilians from Debaltseve on 6 February, the Ukrainian and Russian Major-Generals said that an SMM presence is the only guarantee for civilians to leave the city unharmed. The Ukrainian Major General said 766 people had been evacuated, with the majority now temporarily accommodated in Sloviansk (96km north of Donetsk, government-controlled), while 40 chose to go to Donetsk city. Both Major-Generals said they are planning a new round of evacuations since approximately 5,000 people remain in Debaltseve. The SMM could not independently verify the number of civilians currently in Debalsteve.
The Ukrainian Major-General said that currently there was intense fighting all along the contact line and that Ukrainian Armed Forces had been pushed back by 4km in the area of Chornukhyne (63km north-east of Donetsk, 8km east of Debaltseve, 73km south-west of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled). The “LPR” member stated they had conducted an evacuation from Chornukhyne. He said that on 6 February 200 people were evacuated to safer “LPR”-controlled territory, but did not specify where exactly. He underlined that the “LPR” carried this out without co-ordination with the other parties and that on its way out of the town, the convoy came under fire, injuring three civilians. This information could not be independently verified by SMM.
On 8 February at 08:30hrs, en route to the border crossing point between Ukraine and the Russian Federation at Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), the SMM observed a convoy consisting of 19 trucks marked as “humanitarian aid from RF” near Khartsyzk, (25km east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), moving in a westerly direction towards Donetsk city. The trucks were escorted by the “DPR” police and were driven by personnel of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation wearing blue and orange uniforms with the acronym of the Ministry on the back. The convoy was further split in two in Makiivka en route to Donetsk. In Makiivka (10km east-north-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) the SMM saw six trucks being unloaded at a warehouse and an additional 28 trucks from a separate convoy being unloaded at another warehouse. While in Makiivka, the SMM observed two additional separate convoys of respectively 29 trucks marked as “humanitarian aid from RF” and at least 15 fuel trucks moving towards Donetsk city.
On the way to Khartsyzk, on route H21, the SMM observed two unmarked infantry fighting vehicles BMP-1, stationary and facing a westerly direction. On the same route, the SMM observed five tanks T-72 marked. The tanks were stationary and facing a westerly direction.
While traveling to Stepanivka (75km south-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) the SMM observed 11 military fuel trucks on road H21, in Zuhres (34km east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), moving in a westerly direction; 11 main battle tanks (MBTs), two military trucks and military personnel near Ternove village (56km east of Donetsk , “DPR”-controlled); two MBTs at a checkpoint near Petrovs’ke village (67km east Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled); one self-propelled 122mm howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika in Makiivka (12km east-north-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), moving in a westerly direction. All vehicles were unmarked.
During a flight conducted on 7 February east from Mariupol and east from the contact line an SMM Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) observed a concentration of several armoured vehicles and numerous support vehicles. The observed equipment included battle tanks, APCs, multiple purpose towing vehicles as well as cargo and supply trucks.
On 6 February in Luhansk the SMM liaised with JCCC representatives, “ATO” representatives and “LPR” members to ensure a temporary ceasefire on 7 February to allow for an SMM rotation of personnel. All interlocutors agreed with the request. On 7 February the SMM prepared to conduct the rotation via the damaged bridge at Stanytsia Luhanska (19km north of Luhansk, government-controlled). Whilst the SMM was waiting on the northern edge of Nyzhnia Vilkhova (33km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled), between 11:05 and 11:57hrs, to start the rotation, it heard 61 outgoing artillery rounds originating most likely 3-5km west-south-west of Nyzhnia Vilkhova, from the territory under control of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The SMM rotation at the bridge of Stanytsia Luhanska was delayed because of the firing. At 13:27hrs the rotation was successfully conducted.
In Sievierodonetsk (90km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) on 7 February the SMM observed a peaceful demonstration in front of the regional administration building. Two groups of protesters were present divided by a police cordon of 20 officers, some carrying assault rifles (AK47). The main group consisted of about 300 people, mostly women, aged between 45 and 60 years old. Their main demands revolved around the need for peace negotiations as well as opposition to conscription. The second group of about 50 people, including around 15 women and aged between 18 and 50 years old, was counter-demonstrating, expressing pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian slogans. Two women, demonstrating in the main group, told the SMM that their demonstration was organised by an informal group of women and gathered through word of mouth.
While traveling from Sievierodonetsk (90km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) to Novoaidar (57km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) on 7 February at 09:35hrs, the SMM observed nine military trucks loaded with ammunition boxes, heading west. At a location two kilometres west of Novoaidar, at 09:40hrs, the SMM saw two “Uragan” Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) heading west. In the city of Novoaidar, the SMM observed a convoy of four BMP-1s and two trucks equipped with anti-aircraft guns (ZU-23).
On 6 February in Dnepropetrovsk the SMM met with the non-governmental organization (NGO) “Gorenje”, which provides legal assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs). It is supported by the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State Administration and the International Renaissance Foundation. NGO representatives told the SMM that currently the main concerns IDPs raise with them include entitlement to social assistance, free accommodation, and replacement of missing documents. They said that recently they have received an increase of requests for assistance from IDPs from Debaltseve. People leaving Debaltseve can register as IDPs but do not qualify for social benefits under resolution 505 as Debaltseve is not officially part of the “Anti-Terrorism Operation” (“ATO”) zone.
In Kherson the SMM met the head of NGO “Mangust”, which assists prison inmates released during 2014. The interlocutor said that the NGO managed to assist 51, out of some 800 such persons, mainly in obtaining personal identification documents (IDs). The beneficiaries include 27 persons from Crimea, five from the Donetsk region and seven from the Luhansk region. He also said that the procedure of issuing IDs can take up to two months, during which the former prisoners are not eligible for any state assistance.
On 7 February SMM visited Tysiv (85km west of Ivano-Frankivsk) to follow up on media-reports about protests against mobilization. When arriving in Tysiv, the SMM noted a checkpoint at the entrance of the village consisting of tyres, a small fireplace and a Ukrainian flag, but no personnel manning it. Once in the village, a group of approximately 20-30 villagers of both genders and all ages told the SMM that a protest against mobilization had taken place the day before, when a delegation of the military conscription office of Bolekhiv district, accompanied by the police, had arrived to deliver draft notices for the fourth wave of mobilization. The draft notices had concerned 150 men of 30 years of age or above. Following substantial resistance from the village population, finally none of the draftees left the village. Some of the villagers the SMM spoke to complained about the mobilization as they believe it would affect their village far more than other places in Ukraine (150 men out of a village of 3,000).
In Kharkiv, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Lviv and Kyiv the situation remained calm.