Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00hrs, 2 March 2015
This report is for the media and the 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 by security considerations – noted the security situations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions to be relatively calm, although distant shelling and gunfire were heard by the SMM. The SMM also monitored “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Shyrokyne – which has experienced recent fighting.
In the Donetsk region, in the government-controlled village of Berdianske (98 km south of Donetsk and 18.5 km east of Mariupol), the Ukrainian Armed Forces told SMM that their positions had been fired upon on 1 March from 16:00 to 16:50hrs by grenade launchers, and that they had retaliated with mortar fire. The SMM proceeded to “DPR”-controlled Shyrokyne (97 km south of Donetsk and 20 km east of Mariupol), along highway E-58, where the SMM saw numerous shell craters, rocket remnants, burnt vehicles and trees damaged by shrapnel. Approximately 600 metres from the last Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, the SMM reached a “DPR” checkpoint at the northern edge of Shyrokyne village. Here, the SMM saw some nearby houses had been destroyed or severely damaged, as well as numerous shell craters and a destroyed tank. The “DPR” personnel at this checkpoint prohibited the SMM from proceeding further eastward. While in the northern part of Shyrokyne, at 12.45hrs, the SMM heard four instances of rifle and machine gun fire; three of which came from south-west of the SMM’s location; the fourth was heard from the north-east. The SMM could not confirm the direction of the firing it heard while in Shyrokyne.
At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in “DPR”-controlled Shakhtarsk (40 km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM were told by a Russian Federation Armed Forces officer that the security situation in the area had been calm in the past week. He also stated that they had not been instructed to verify implementation of the Minsk package of measures, and that they would not have the vehicles to do so if asked. At the JCCC in government-controlled Volnovakha (47 km south-west of Donetsk), Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces personnel similarly said that they had received no instructions to verify the heavy weapons withdrawal.
At the JCCC Headquarters (HQ) in government-controlled Soledar (77 km north of Donetsk), the SMM was told by the Ukrainian Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, and the Russian Colonel-General, Representative of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to the JCCC, that the situation at the Donetsk airport, and villages in close proximity, continues to be of concern. They said that they intend to visit the area on 3 March to try and reduce tensions and to expedite the removal of heavy weapons. The JCCC incident log had recorded 39 ceasefire violations in the 24 hours before 08:00hrs on 2 March. According to the JCCC log, 26 of these violations occurred in villages close to the Donetsk airport, and nine involved tubed artillery fired from “DPR”-controlled Putylivskyi Forest, in the north of Donetsk city, targeting Ukrainian Armed Forces positions. The Russian Federation Colonel-General said that there did appear to be a disconnect between these ceasefire violations as recorded by the JCCC, and “DPR” announcements regarding the withdrawal of their tubed artillery.
In government-controlled Ocheretyne (29 km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM was told by local officials that the security situation there had stabilized after the ceasefire regime began on 15 February, and that there had been no shelling for at least a week. The Chief of Police said that since the ceasefire regime officers have been able to devote more time to core policing tasks.
While at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint just outside government-controlled Kirove (42 km north of Donetsk), at 11:40hrs, the SMM heard the sound of six outgoing mortar rounds coming from a south-easterly direction, estimated to be at a distance of approximately two kilometres from its position. The SMM was unable to determine the direction or impacts of this shelling.
In the Luhansk region, at a press conference in Luhansk city, a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) member announced that the withdrawal of weapons had been completed by the “LPR”. The SMM is not in a position to verify this alleged complete withdrawal, since it has not been granted access to monitor locations to which “LPR” weapons have been moved; nor has the SMM been provided with an inventory of weapons in the possession of the “LPR” at the beginning of the withdrawal period.
While patrolling ten kilometres north of Trokhizbenka (government-controlled, 33 km north-west of Luhansk), starting from 10:39hrs, the SMM heard the distant sound of continuous shelling that lasted approximately twenty minutes. The SMM estimated the shelling to have taken place south of its position at a distance of approximately ten kilometres.
While in Popasna (government-controlled, 85 km west of Luhansk), at approximately 12:30hrs, the SMM heard one undetermined artillery munition being fired more than eight kilometres away, from a direction to the south of Popasna.
The SMM attempted to patrol the area of “LPR”-controlled Donetskyi (50 km north-west of Luhansk). However, at a checkpoint east of Vesnyane (“LPR”-controlled, 45 km west of Luhansk,), the SMM was prevented from travelling further by members of the so-called ‘Prezrak’ (Ghost) Battalion of the “LPR”. No explanation was given.
Police in Lviv informed the SMM of having received an anonymous phone call informing them of a bomb having been placed inside Lviv International Airport. According to the interlocutor the threat had subsequently transpired to be a hoax, but the phone call resulted in people being evacuated from the airport.
In Dnepropetrovsk region, the police chief of Nikopol district (122 km south-west of Dnepropetrovsk) told the SMM that the security situation was currently stable, but voiced his concerns of a possible spill-over of weapons into this area when hostilities in the east eventually end, based on the growing number of weapons seized at checkpoints elsewhere in Dnepropetrovsk region.
Police in Ivano-Frankivsk region told the SMM that they are taking steps to prevent the possible flow of weaponry into their region from the conflict zone by establishing 13 checkpoints around the region and searching cars for weapons. SMM visited some of these checkpoints and noticed volunteers, such as members of the “Pravyy Sector” (Right Sector), helping police man the checkpoints.
In Kyiv, in front of governmental buildings and the Verkhovna Rada, the SMM monitored a protest involving approximately 700 coal miners (almost exclusively male and of a variety of ages). The miners, some from western Ukraine (SMM saw several buses) had Ukrainian and trade union flags. They expressed discontent with the government’s decision to import coal to keep electrical plants operating, while mines in Ukraine were being closed. The Verkhovna Rada was protected by a cordon of National Guard. In the adjacent park more than 10 buses of police, National Guard and police special forces were parked. The protest blocked traffic but was peaceful.
The SMM continued monitoring the situation in Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernivtsi and Odessa.