Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 17 February
This report is for media and the general public.
The SMM continued monitoring the implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements”. The SMM, based on its monitoring – which was restricted due to security considerations – noted that there had been heavy fighting in and around the Debaltseve-Horlivka area. However in many other places, the ceasefire largely held.
In the vicinity of the Donetsk airport on the morning of the 17 February, the SMM heard artillery and mortar shelling, heavy machine guns and small arms fire. The SMM could not ascertain whether the rounds (which lasted one hour) were incoming or outgoing. Residents in the area told the SMM that they have had no water or electricity supply for the past two months. The SMM saw considerable shelling and fighting damage in the area.
Throughout the morning of 17 February, the SMM – stationary in Soledar (77km north of Donetsk, government-controlled) – heard intense shelling, which it assessed to be emanating from Debaltseve. The SMM could not ascertain if the rounds were incoming or outgoing.
The SMM went to the headquarters (HQ) of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in Soledar (77km north of Donetsk, government-controlled), which is temporarily relocated from Debaltseve. The SMM was present at four video conference calls with the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major General, the Russian Federation Armed Forces Major General and Colonel General and members of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). Representatives of the Presidential Administration and the General Staff of Ukraine (GSU) were also present. Negotiations concerning the SMM’s access to Debaltseve continued throughout the day (see SMM Spot Report, 18 February). The JCCC provided SMM with incident logs that indicated 52 ceasefire violations (over half were at Debaltseve; Donetsk airport and east of Mariupol were also mentioned) for the 24hr period from 08:00 on 16 February to 08:00 on 17 February – almost half the number of incidents on the preceding 24 hour period, when 102 were noted.
In Panteleimonivka (26km north-north-east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled), the SMM heard, during the morning of 17 February, the sound of two explosions coming from a location approximately six kilometres to the north of its position.
The acting mayor of Krasnohorlivka (21km west of Donetsk, government-controlled) told the SMM of the severe humanitarian situation affecting the city. The city has been without electricity and gas for 12 days as a result of damage caused by shelling. There is no heating, which, according to the mayor, contributed to the death of at least one elderly woman five days ago. A woman who said she was a nurse told the SMM that at least three elderly people have died in the past two weeks, with low temperatures considered a factor in their deaths. Considering current harsh winter conditions, the mayor stated that there is an urgent need to repair the power system. All five schools in the city have been affected by shelling. According to the acting mayor, the city’s only hospital has not been functional for two weeks, with patients evacuated to nearby Kurakhove hospital (28km west of Donetsk, government-controlled). The SMM proceeded to a residential area (Vostochnaya) where the humanitarian situation was particularly desperate. An elderly woman living in a shelter told the SMM that five families (all adults) have been living there for eight months. According to her, they have received some help from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but are hungry.
In Kominternove (88km south of Donetsk, in an area between “DPR” and government-control), residents told the SMM that shelling had stopped on 15 February following intense fighting the previous day. The SMM saw severe damage to school and village administration buildings. In several places the SMM saw unused 82mm mortar ammunition apparently left behind during recent fighting. According to some residents, they cannot travel because of the permit-regime. They are supposed to travel through a specific checkpoint but cannot as the area is mined. For another checkpoint that residents can travel to, they do not possess the required permits and are not allowed passage. They are unable to travel to request permits. Consequently, many of the village’s men who work in nearby Mariupol live there temporarily. Children and women are left in Kominternove.
The Mayor of Chermalyk (72km south of Donetsk, government-controlled) told the SMM that there had been no shelling since the ceasefire came into effect on 15 February. There has been no electricity for more than a week. The kindergarten is closed because of a lack of heating. The school is open, but lessons are short due to the low temperatures.
Between 10:10 and 10:30hrs on 17 February while in Hrechyshkyne (72km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled), the SMM heard about seven rounds of artillery shelling from approximately 15km south of their location. The SMM could not determine if the shelling was incoming or outgoing.
On 17 February, the SMM spoke with the Ukrainian Armed Forces commander of the JCCC office in Starobilsk (80km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) by phone. The commander told the SMM that on 17 February there were no logged ceasefire violations as of 16.00hrs and that the last shelling was registered on 16 February at approximately 23:00hrs. The JCCC log, according to the commander, showed two ceasefire violations during the 24hrs period from 07:00 on 16 February to 07:00 on 17 February that occurred in Novotoshkivske (55km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) and Zolote (67km west of Luhansk, government-controlled).
At a checkpoint in Mykhailivka (34km west of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled), armed men under the command of a Cossack commander refused to allow the SMM to proceed in the direction of Irmino (65km west of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled). The armed men asked the SMM to show evidence of permission from the “LPR” for freedom of movement.
On 16 February, the SMM visited a border crossing point under the control of a Cossack group in Dolzhanskyi (105km south-east of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled), and observed regular crossing activity – civilians (both men and women) on foot or in vehicles. The SMM met with a Cossack deputy commander in Sverdlovsk (85km south-east of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled), who said that he was suspicious of an SMM presence in what he considered his area of responsibility
On 17 February, the SMM went to a hostel of a technical school in Sievierodonetsk (90km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) where 54 internally displaced persons (IDPs) (15 men, 23 women and 16 children) are living. The director of the hostel told the SMM that that a small number arrived recently from Popasna (85km north-west of Luhansk, government-controlled) although most of the IDPs came from Pervomaisk (76km west of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled) and Stakhanov (50km west of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled) during summer 2014. The living conditions for IDPs are acceptable, according to the director, although the building needs renovation.
The SMM also continued monitoring the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv.