Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 23 February 2015
This report is for media and the general public.
The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements”. The SMM, based on its monitoring – which was restricted by third parties and security considerations – noted that fighting continued in areas of Donetsk region including Shyrokyne and, to a lesser extent, in a number of other locations. Baseline data enabling the SMM to monitor and verify withdrawal of heavy weapons had still not been provided.
From their location on Krasnohvardeyskyi Prospect, five kilometres north-east of “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard the sound of shelling (around 30 explosions) approximately 10km to the west, in the area of Donetsk airport. The SMM assessed that it was both incoming and some outgoing shelling, but it could not determine the direction of fire.
When travelling through “DPR”-controlled Budonivskyi district (5km south-south-west of Donetsk city centre) the SMM heard small arms fire from what they concluded to be a firing range. The firing came from the direction of an abandoned industrial area on Bauman Street. The SMM visited a house on Chernovitskaja Street that the owner said had been shelled on 2 February. The SMM observed that one artillery shell had impacted through the roof and the house was gutted in the subsequent fire.
At the temporary Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) headquarters re-located to government-controlled Soledar (77km north of Donetsk), those present, including officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Russian Federation Armed Forces and members of the “DPR” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) gave the SMM the latest map of the region with a definite line of contact agreed upon by all. The Russian Federation Major-General, Representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the JCCC, said that some heavy weapons had been withdrawn by the “LPR” in Luhansk Region. The Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC said he had no evidence that any heavy weapons had been withdrawn. Until the signatories of the Minsk Package provide baseline information repeatedly requested by the SMM Chief Monitor – including inventories, withdrawal routes and concentration points – the SMM remains able to monitor movement of weapons but not to verify that weapons are withdrawn.
The JCCC incident log seen by the SMM showed the total number of complaints of ceasefire violations for the 24 hours to 08:00hrs on 23 February had decreased in comparison with the previous 24 hours. For the third day in a row most complaints were logged in villages near Donetsk airport and in Shyrokyne (23km east of Mariupol, 125km south of Donetsk).
At 10:45hrs, whilst stationary to the north of government-controlled Avdiivka (14km north-north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard several outgoing mortar rounds (assessed as 82mm calibre) fired from a location several hundred meters to the south-east of its position. The SMM observed that many buildings within the city have sustained damage to their roofs and/or windows from shelling. The deputy mayor of Avdiivka told the SMM that the town had been without gas, water and electricity supply for the last two months.
The chief of police in Avdiivka showed the SMM to Maladiozhnaja Street – the location of a shelling that he said took place on the morning of 23 February. The SMM analysed a single crater on the road and determined that it was likely caused by artillery fired east-south-east from the impact site. A definitive assessment of the firing distance could not be made.
According to Avdiivka’s chief of police, incoming Grad rounds at 07:45hrs on 23 February had caused damage to an abandoned warehouse at Industrialnaya Street. At this location the SMM saw shelling damage and aluminium tubing resembling Grad remnants. The SMM was unable to determine the distance and the direction from where the rounds were fired. The SMM also saw damage to a factory administration building and to the Ministry of Emergency Services building within an industrial complex in the northern part of the town. The SMM visited a cafe in Avdiivka where media reported three local men were killed when a rocket struck on 21 February, and saw remnants of a Grad rocket at the site.
The SMM spoke with the commander at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in government-controlled Volnovakha (35km south-west of Donetsk) concerning recent movement restrictions the SMM has faced travelling through this checkpoint. The commander told the SMM that he will continue to refuse passage unless he is informed in advance about the time and destination of the SMM’s patrols. The commander also informed the SMM that after 23 February, the checkpoint will no longer accept applications for travel permits from civilians. According to him, people must now apply for permits in Mariupol or Velyka Novosilka (29km west of Donetsk).
In government-controlled Sopyne (99km south of Donetsk) the SMM heard incoming and outgoing artillery and mortar fire (about 20 rounds) at 10:15hrs. Whilst in government-controlled Berdianske (98km south of Donetsk) during the morning of 23 February, the SMM heard artillery, mortar and tank fire as well as heavy machine gun, small arms and anti-aircraft fire from 500 metres to one kilometre north-east from its position. In Berdianske, the SMM talked to four men and three women living in a basement to escape shelling who said they have no food or utilities. They told the SMM that the town has been without water for three weeks and without electricity for three days. Two other groups of local residents spoke of enduring the same living conditions to the SMM.
According to a member of the village council in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (40km west of Luhansk), the area has been calm since the ceasefire came into effect on 15 February. This was corroborated by Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel at a checkpoint outside the village. The SMM saw severe damage to village infrastructure, including water and gas lines. There is no gas supply or mains water due to damage caused by shelling. Residents draw water from private wells, according to the village council member. The interlocutor stated that the village has been reconnected to the electricity network.
At 10:50hrs, on the northern outskirts of Trokhizbenka, the SMM heard three shots (likely artillery) coming from the south-east direction at an estimated distance of 10-20km.
On 22 February, the “mayor” of “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (75km west of Luhansk) told the SMM that despite the non-functioning of the pre-conflict town council, some local administration employees still repair and maintain the town infrastructure. The “mayor” does not know when funds for the town administration may be forthcoming from the “LPR”. According to her, no enterprises are operating and no taxes are being paid in the town.
The SMM monitored a rally at the Shevchenko monument in Kharkiv in memory of those killed in the 22 February explosion (see SMM Spot Report, 22 February). The death of a 15 year old boy (injured in the explosion) in hospital on 23 February was announced to the crowd. The atmosphere at the rally, at first sombre, turned to anger, though remained peaceful. Approximately 150 to 250 (mostly men, and some women and children) and 75 police (uniformed, plainclothes, and explosive detection canine units) were present. By 13:45hrs, participants dispersed peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv.