Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 18:00hrs, 6 March 2015
Please note that this report is provided for the public and the media
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* – assessed the security situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as relatively calm.
(* See the section ‘Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement’ at the end of this report for more details)
The SMM visited the Donetsk airport where, in the new terminal, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) “emergency services” started to recover dead bodies. Fifteen captive men, whom a “DPR” member described as Ukrainian servicemen who had been fighting at the Donetsk airport, were tasked with assisting the “emergency services” in recovering body parts. A “DPR” member involved in the recovery told the SMM that the bodies would first be brought to the morgue in Donetsk and thereafter to Dnepropetrovsk. While at the airport, between 10:15 and 11:40hrs, the SMM heard at least 50 explosions, mostly from automatic grenade launchers, as well as small-arms and heavy-machine gun fire at a location less than one kilometre north-west of the Donetsk airport new terminal. The SMM assessed that most of the fire was incoming but could not ascertain the origin of the incoming fire. Between 11:40 and 12:05hrs the SMM heard several incoming mortar rounds approximately 300 to 500 meters north-west of its location but could not ascertain the origin of the incoming fire.
At a location 15 kilometres west of government-controlled Ocheretino (38km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM met a Ukrainian Armed Forces convoy consisting of five 152mm howitzers, towed by three Kraz trucks, two Kamaz trucks and one support vehicle. The SMM followed the convoy for three kilometres to the village of Hrodivka. In Hrodivka the convoy turned south. The SMM was prevented from proceeding further by the convoy commander.*
While waiting at a checkpoint in government-controlled Volnovakha (51km south-south-west of Donetsk) for approval to proceed beyond the checkpoint, the SMM heard four rounds of small arms fire and left the scene immediately.*
At a location three kilometres west of government-controlled Staromaiorske (90km west-south-west of Donetsk) the SMM observed a Ukrainian Armed Forces convoy consisting of 15 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) Uragan and two support vehicles. The convoy was accompanied by two civilian-type vehicles. All vehicles were without number plates. The SMM monitored the convoy up to a location that the convoy commander described as the final destination. The convoy commander stated that the weapons systems would remain in this area.
While on its way to a previously visited site of Ukrainian Armed Forces weapons in the northern part of the Donetsk region where Ukrainian Armed Forces were concentrated, the SMM was restricted in its freedom of movement at a checkpoint manned by Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and thereby prevented from verifying the withdrawal of the previously-monitored heavy weapons.*
While approaching a Ukrainian Armed Forces command post located in government-controlled Berdiansk (98km south of Donetsk), the SMM was asked to stop by three soldiers, who fired one warning shot above the SMM vehicle. The SMM stopped and talked with the soldiers who said that they belonged to the Donbass battalion, which had been rotated in the area on 5 March. The SMM was then allowed to proceed. While at a location on the eastern edge of Berdiansk, the SMM heard the sound of 18 rounds of mortar shelling from a north-north-easterly direction at an approximate distance of 12 kilometres from the observation post. A few minutes later the SMM heard another five rounds of mortar shelling from an easterly direction two kilometres from its position. Later on the SMM heard six rounds of outgoing mortar shelling from a government-controlled area towards the “DPR”-controlled area two kilometres east of its position.
At a location between government-controlled Manhush (107km south-west of Donetsk) and government-controlled Volodarske (92km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed a Ukrainian Armed Forces convoy consisting of six MLRS Uragan, each of them fully loaded with 16 Uragan rockets, and four military support vehicles carrying Uragan rockets missiles, stationary on the highway to Manhush.
On 6 March, an SMM Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) conducted operational flights in the security zone on both sides of the “line of contact”. The flight area stretched approximately from Donetsk to Stakhanov (90 km north-east of Donetsk). During the flight, the UAV observed only limited military presence consisting of several armoured vehicles (armed personnel carriers (APCs), military-type supply trucks, and one battle tank), as well as extensive damage to civilian infrastructure in several locations. Using an infra-red camera the UAV recorded a pattern of warmth on the ground in one place consistent with a recent rocket launch. Furthermore, the UAV was jammed while flying in the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Horlivka and “DPR”-controlled Yasinuvata.
In the Luhansk region, the SMM attempted to monitor four separate withdrawals of different types of heavy weapons of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in government-controlled areas of Hrechyshkyne (45km north-west of Luhansk), Denezhnykove (59km north-west of Luhansk), Novookhtyrka (54km north-west of Luhansk), and Polovynkyne (70km north-west of Luhansk). The SMM was notified of these moves by the Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC. The Ukrainian Armed Forces officers at these locations said they were awaiting orders to move this equipment. The equipment remained static while SMM was present.
While stationary near Hrechyshkyne, the SMM spotted seven APCs and one truck towing a mortar. The convoy was heading west to east. At the same location, the SMM spotted a convoy of four artillery command and reconnaissance vehicles (ACRV) heading west. While stationary in Polovynkyne, the SMM observed a T-72 tank on the back of a trailer heading north from government-controlled Novoaidar (57km north of Luhansk) to Starobilsk.
While driving by the walled compound of a “LPR”-controlled coal mine, the SMM noticed the barrel of an anti-aircraft gun protruding from the compound itself. The SMM decided to monitor the compound and, once inside, saw a truck-mounted 23mm anti-aircraft gun, two multipurpose light armoured towing vehicles (MTLBs) with anti-aircraft missiles, and five 122mm self-propelled howitzer (2S1). The equipment was neatly parked and attended by at least two dozen “LPR” armed personnel that were cleaning weapons and performing other manual tasks.
Ukrainian Security Officers in Kharkiv confirmed to the SMM that a privately-owned vehicle exploded on 6 March at 11:59hrs in the city’s Moskovskyi district. According to the interlocutor, two magnetic type explosive devices had been fixed underneath the vehicle. One of the two explosive devices exploded and caused massive damage to the vehicle and injured the two passengers, the commander of the special Ministry of Internal Affairs battalion “Slobozhanshina” and his wife. The second device was discovered unexploded in the wreckage of the vehicle. The SMM observed the scene of the explosion from a distance, as the area was cordoned off and authorities were conducting further search for additional explosive devices. A large number of police were present at the scene.
In Odessa, the SMM followed up on media reports concerning the discovery of explosive material in Odessa city centre and contacted the spokesperson of the Odessa regional headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The interlocutor said that the police received a call at 17:00hrs on 5 March about a suspicious bag located at the corner of Mala Arnautska and Katerynynska Streets. According to the interlocutor, a special unit arrived on the spot and found a bag containing four pieces of explosive material, each weighing approximately 200g. The bag also contained an electronic detonator that was not connected to the explosive material. The police found the material, removed it and sent it forensic examination.
The SMM contacted the spokesperson of the regional police in Chernivtsi to follow up on media reports concerning the seizure by the police of over 140 pieces of what appeared to be military weapons in Chernivtsi city. According to the interlocutor, on 5 March the police received information from a local resident who said he saw two individuals unloading military crates into an apartment. According to the spokesperson, the police had questioned the two individuals in question who stated that the weapons were not operational and were only mementos to be sold to collectors of replica weapons. The SMM then met with the police officer in charge of the investigation who said that the weapons, seized by the police, will be further examined.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, and Kyiv.
* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by security considerations including the lack of information on whereabouts of landmines, and restrictions imposed by third parties.
The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the cease-fire does not hold everywhere. For this reason, the SMM requires security guarantees from “DPR” and “LPR” which are not always provided. Where such guarantees are limited to escorted movements, and escorts are not provided for all planned patrols or are delayed, this also represents a restriction of SMM freedom of movement.
In particular during the reporting period:
-In government-controlled Hrodivka, a Ukrainian Armed forces commander prevented the SMM from monitoring the movement of heavy weapons beyond that location.
- On the way to Svobodne (56km south-south-west of Donetsk), where the SMM planned to monitor a Ukrainian Armed Forces convoy, the SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint west of Volnovakha (51km south-south-west of Donetsk). The commander of the checkpoint requested and was told the names and nationalities of all the SMM monitors. The SMM repeatedly asked for permission to pass the checkpoint, but the commander said he was still awaiting permission from the brigade commander. The SMM decided to turn back towards Donetsk.
- At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Volnovakha (51km south-south-west of Donetsk) the SMM was refused passage and had to change its route and had to proceed southwards to Mariupol. At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint located 2km north of Mariupol (115km south of Donetsk) the SMM was stopped again and had to wait for over 30 minutes. Not having received approval to proceed, the SMM decided to take an alternative route to return to Donetsk city.
- While on its way to a previously visited concentration of Ukrainian Armed Forces site in the northern part of the Donetsk region, the SMM was restricted in its freedom of movement at a checkpoint – located 20km to the north-west from the junction of roads to Artemivsk and Soledar -manned by Ukrainian Armed forces personnel and thereby prevented to verify the withdrawal of the previously monitored heavy weapons
- While in “LPR”-controlled Parkhomenko (29km east of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped by “border guards” for a document check. The “border guards” asked for special authorization for patrols in the border area which they explained to the SMM as 15km from the contact line.