Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 18:00hrs, 8 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 situation in the Luhansk region to be calm, but in the Donetsk region the SMM monitored fighting in and around the Donetsk airport and to the east of Mariupol. The SMM also monitored the movements of Ukrainian Armed Forces, “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) heavy weapons.
En route to the Donetsk airport (9km north-west of Donetsk), on 7 March, the SMM was prevented from proceeding at a “DPR” checkpoint close to the airport.* While at this checkpoint, the SMM heard three explosions it assessed to be incoming mortar fire, and small arms fire, impacting to the north, the direction of the airport. On 8 March the SMM reached the Donetsk airport, where a member of the “DPR” stated that the situation overnight and in the morning had been calm. However, from 10:10 to 13:30hrs the SMM heard intermittent heavy machinegun and small arms fire from the vicinity of the old terminal building, 500-700m from the SMM’s position. From 11:00 to 11:30hrs on 7 March, the SMM heard several explosions approximately 10km west of the airport (between five and seven), but could not ascertain the direction of fire or weapons used. Later that day, at a location consistent with this estimated distance, a separate SMM patrol in government-controlled Pervomaiske (12km north-west of Donetsk) heard at least six mortar rounds incoming from the east.
On 7 March the SMM monitored three convoys belonging to the “DPR” from: Telmanove (“DPR”-controlled, 67km south of Donetsk) containing nine mortars; Karlo Marksove (“DPR”-controlled, 40km north-east of Donetsk) containing nine mortars; and the eastern outskirts of Donetsk city containing eight mortars. The SMM followed these convoys to locations described by the “DPR” as being their final destination for these mortars; at these locations the SMM also saw a total of eight howitzers.
On 7 March, in “DPR”-controlled areas the SMM saw: four tanks in Michurene (62km south of Donetsk); two tanks on the southern outskirts of Khartsyzk (27km east of Donetsk); and two tanks 10km south-west of Donetsk city.
On 7 March, at a “DPR” checkpoint in northern Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol; 102km south of Donetsk), the SMM saw fresh craters, and was told by “DPR” members that they had come under tank and mortar fire the previous night. The SMM was denied passage further into Shyrokyne by the “DPR” members at this checkpoint.* From nearby Berdianske (government-controlled, 98km south of Donetsk; 18.5km east of Mariupol), the SMM heard an exchange of small arms fire between locations under Ukrainian Armed Forces control and areas under “DPR” control. At various times throughout the day, the SMM heard a total of 63 mortar and 40 tank rounds fired from Ukrainian Armed Forces controlled areas, heard by the SMM from a hill in the north-eastern outskirts of Berdianske approximately at a distance of 200m from the SMM’s position. Based on the impact sounds from this shelling, the SMM assessed it to have targeted Shyrokyne. On 8 March, from the same hill-top near Berdianske, the SMM heard small arms fire from Shyrokyne, and saw and heard an outgoing bombardment towards Shyrokyne involving 150 mortar and tank rounds.
At the headquarters of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in government-controlled Soledar (77km north of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, stated that the Ukrainian Armed Forces intended to complete their last heavy weapons withdrawal by the end of 7 March, and that only unserviceable heavy weapons would remain to be removed on 8 March.
On 7 March, in the Donetsk region, the SMM monitored several convoys of Ukrainian Armed Forces military hardware being moved away from the contact line, which were observed in the following government-controlled locations, and contained the following heavy weapons:
- One kilometre south of Buhas (47km south-west of Donetsk); six howitzers and six military trucks carrying mortars. One howitzer was left at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint; the convoy commander said it had broken down. The SMM had to stop following when the convoy proceeded through mud the SMM vehicles could not traverse.
- Near Svobodnoye (58km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM met eight howitzers and monitored the convoy until told by the convoy commander not to follow further.*
- Near Pokrovskoe (75km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM monitored the movement of four howitzers and six mortars. The SMM followed this convoy to what was described by the convoy commander as the new location for these weapons.
- At Odradivka village (58km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM met 12 howitzers. The SMM was not allowed to follow the convoy to its final destination.*
- From a location 5km east of Artemivsk (67km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM followed nine howitzers but did not follow this convoy to its end point, due to the SMM monitoring team moving on to monitor another convoy.
- Outside the village of Sakko I Vantsetti (90km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM met six howitzers. The SMM followed them to their final destination but was not allowed to follow the convoy to its final concentration point.*
- East of Selydove (41km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM met a convoy of 13 howitzers and four mortars, which it monitored until the convoy commander told the SMM not to follow further.*
- In the outskirts of Kremenivka (75km south of Donetsk) the SMM met a convoy of four howitzers. The SMM followed the convoy to a storage site, but was told by the Ukrainian Armed Forces that the SMM could not inspect this site.*
- In the eastern outskirts of Volodarske (92 km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM met a convoy of 18 howitzers and followed it to its new location in a forested area.
- Nine kilometres north of Manhush (107 south-west of Donetsk), the SMM met a convoy consisting of 19 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS). The SMM followed this convoy to the Zaporizhzhia region. Patrols were dispatched by the SMM from Dnepropetrovsk to monitor the parking of these heavy weapons at a location in Zaporizhzhia.
The SMM intends to re-visit all the locations it has been told are storage sites for military hardware that it has monitored being moved, so as to verify that the weapons remain in situ. On 8 March the SMM once more inspected the storage site in Zaporizhzhia region, mentioned above, and found all items there to match the inventory list from the convoy that brought the weapons there the previous day. Also on 8 March the SMM inspected a Ukrainian Armed Forces storage site in the Donetsk region; the serial numbers of the twelve howitzers were consistent with what the SMM had recorded previously on 6 March.
While in Volnovakha (56km south of Donetsk, government-controlled), during evening hours on 7 March, the SMM saw eight howitzers moving north on the H20 highway.
The SMM UAV conducted an operational flight in the vicinity of Artemivsk (government-controlled, 66km north of Donetsk), following an arc approximately 20km to the north. The observations revealed the presence of numerous artillery pieces, including howitzers, self-propelled artillery, MLRS, tanks and military support vehicles. Some of the observed equipment was seen relocating. Noteworthy, the UAV observed a large concentration of armoured vehicles and heavy weapons in an area which appeared to be consistent with a storage site for withdrawn weapons; the UAV observed further vehicles moving into this storage site.
In the Luhansk region, on 7 March, the SMM monitored the movement of “LPR” heavy weapons away from the contact line. The convoy was met in Luhansk city and consisted of nine 120mm mortars. At Krasnodon (“LPR”-controlled, 43km south-east of Luhansk,) the “LPR” escort told the SMM not to follow once the convoy reached the outskirts of the city.* On 7 March the SMM visited two locations in Luhansk city to which the SMM had previously been denied entry. At the first warehouse the SMM saw only stacks of artillery ammunition (122mm and 152mm). At the second location the SMM saw ammunition including Grad rockets, and 43 tanks (T-64 and T-72), the majority of which the SSM assessed to be in working order.
Also in the Luhansk region, on 7 March, the SMM monitored several movements of Ukrainian Armed Forces hardware, meeting the convoys in the following government-controlled locations.
- North of Hrechyshkyne (45km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM met two howitzers and followed the convoy away from the contact line, until the SMM was told by the convoy personnel to stop following. No reason was given.*
- Also at Hrechyshkyne the SMM met a convoy of six howitzers and monitored it until the convoy personnel told the SMM to stop following. No reason was given.*
- Five kilometers south of Starobilsk (84km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM met two MLRS, travelling in the direction of Starobilsk.
- The SMM met a convoy of two MLRS north of Polovynkyne (70km north-west of Luhansk). After a period of following these vehicles the SMM was told by the convoy commander not to follow further.*
- The SMM met a convoy near Kapitanove (50km north-west of Luhansk) on the road to Novookhtyrka (54km north-west of Luhansk). The SMM first followed a convoy of two trucks towing artillery, until its personnel told the SMM they were not allowed to follow further. No reason was given.*
In Ivano-Frankivsk, on 8 March, a piece of 38mm calibre shell was found close to parked SMM vehicles. The police bomb-squad determined the shell was blunt (without gunpowder and detonator), posed no threat, and removed it. After the initial investigation the police reported that no threat to SMM has been assessed.
The SMM continued monitoring the situation in Lviv, Chernivtsi, Kherson, Odessa, Kyiv and Kharkiv.
* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by third parties and security considerations including the lack of information on whereabouts of landmines.
The security situation in the 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’s freedom of movement. In particular:
- After monitoring Ukrainian Armed Forces movements of military hardware from Buhas, Myrnoye and Svobodnoye, the SMM were denied passage at two Ukrainian checkpoints near Volnovakha.
- In some instances, Ukrainian Armed Forces prevented the SMM from following its convoys of military hardware beyond certain points. This occurred in relation to the convoys met in Hrechyshkyne, Polovynkyne, and Kapitanove (Luhansk region); and in Sakko I Vantsetti, Odradivka, Selydove (Donetsk region).
- On the eastern edge of Buhas a Ukrainian Armed Forces jeep blocked the path of an SMM vehicle; personnel in the jeep told the SMM that they could not pass.
- In Denezhnykove (government-controlled, 59km north-west of Luhansk,) the SMM was told by Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel that it could not enter a nearby forest area, and no reason was given.
- An SMM patrol en route to the Donetsk airport was stopped at a “DPR” checkpoint and was not allowed to proceed further.
- The SMM was denied passage further into Shyrokyne by “DPR” members at a checkpoint in the north of Shyrokyne.
- The SMM was stopped by “LPR” members near “LPR”-controlled Pidhirne (46km south-east of Luhansk, next to the Russian Federation border). They told the SMM to turn back and that it faced restrictions of movement in the border area.