Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 10 March 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 by security considerations* – directly observed heavy fighting in and around the Donetsk airport and in the areas to the east of Mariupol. The SMM was granted access to a number of storage sites where Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons are concentrated, following the movements of weapons monitored by the SMM in recent days.
At the Donetsk airport (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 10km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM monitored the recovery of 14 bodies of deceased Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel in the presence of the “DPR emergency services” and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); the SMM were later informed by the ICRC that the bodies of a total of 16 deceased Ukrainian soldiers had been removed from the airport.
At the airport the SMM observed 27 ceasefire violations between 10:00 and 14:10hrs. These were heard in areas around the airport and included: mortar fire incoming to the north and west of the airport; mortar and small arms fire both incoming to and outgoing from the west and south-west of the airport, and outgoing mortar, small arms and heavy machine gun fire from north-west of the airport. To the north of Pisky (government-controlled, 12km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard and saw the smoke of 19 mortar rounds impacting in fields between Vodyane and Tonenke (both government-controlled, 15km and 19km north-west of Donetsk respectively).
The SMM entered Pisky and saw that most structures had been damaged by shelling. The SMM did not see any civilians. Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel in the area said that fighting has been occurring at night. The SMM spoke to local officials in Hyrnik and Ukrayinsk (government-controlled, 35km and 36km north-west of Donetsk), who said that the previous night several explosions were heard from the direction of Pisky.
The SMM observed heavy fighting around Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol; 102km south of Donetsk). Members of the “DPR” told the SMM that the “DPR” controls around half of Shyrokyne, but the SMM could not verify this since the “DPR” would not let it enter.* From an observation point on a hilltop near Berdianske (government-controlled, 18.5km east of Mariupol; 98km south of Donetsk;) the SMM observed an ongoing battle in and around Shyrokyne. The SMM heard intensive exchanges of fire involving heavy machine guns, small arms, mortars, grenade launchers and tanks. The SMM estimated well over 100 mortar and tank rounds, plus small arms fire, to have been fired from areas under government control; the SMM also saw some tank fire, and at least 20 mortar rounds, fired from “DPR” positions towards Ukrainian Armed Forces positions. Near Berdianske, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel asked SMM personnel to identify their nationalities before letting them pass, explaining that they received new instructions on how to deal with SMM patrols on 2 March.
The SMM was granted access to seven Ukrainian Armed Forces sites across the Donetsk region to monitor its storage of heavy weaponry. The SMM found the serial numbers of much of the equipment present to be consistent with the weapon serial numbers it had recorded during recent movements of the weapons away from the contact line. In some cases the SMM saw weaponry that it had not monitored during recent movements of heavy weapons, and recorded their serial numbers. In one storage site, four pieces of self-propelled artillery that the SMM had seen on 5 March, and the SMM had noted as missing on 7 March, were still not present. The SMM patrolled from Dnepropetrovsk to monitor a Ukrainian Armed Forces storage site in Zaporizhzhia, and found all the heavy weapons previously observed here as remaining present.
The SMM UAV conducted two operational flights on both sides of the “contact line”, monitoring the presence of heavy weapons within the “security zone”. The flight area stretched from approximately 30km north-west of Donetsk to Stakhanov, approximately 100km north-east of Donetsk. Observations included several battle tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs), some of which were in dug-in positions, as well as checkpoints, and a military deployment area located approximately 14km from the “contact line”.
In the Luhansk region the SMM monitored three locations where Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons are being stored. At one location the SMM monitored the heavy weapons it had been told are stored there by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. At a second location the expected heavy weapons were not present. And at a third location the SMM was refused access by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.* The SMM also followed three movements of heavy weapons. The first, comprising of ten mortars, was followed by the SMM away from the contact line to its final destination. The second and third movements were followed by the SMM away from the contact line, but the SMM were then told by the Ukrainian Armed Forces not to follow further.*
The SMM continued to monitor areas controlled by the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). In the villages of Blahivka (67km south of Luhansk) and Bobrykivka (56km south-east of Luhansk), local residents said that the population has declined by at least 40 per cent since last summer due to the conflict; they also said that Blahivka’s coal mine is closed. In Krasnodon (“LPR”-controlled, 34km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM heard from local residents that six coalmines surround the village, but that coal production has decreased due to the conflict. Interlocutors from the “LPR Trade Union Federation” described to the SMM the difficult conditions facing people in “LPR”-controlled areas, including the decrease of economic activity due to the disruption of economic ties and commercial traffic to “LPR” areas. In Frunze (“LPR”-controlled, 40km west of Luhansk), a local official said that Frunze is facing a shortage of food.
In Lviv the SMM attended the opening of the Centre for Psychological Health, which will provide support to those suffering from post-traumatic disorders such as injured soldiers, relatives of those killed in the conflict, and volunteers who transport supplies to the conflict area. The SMM also visited Chernivtsi Regional Psychiatric Hospital, where the SMM heard of resource limitations in its ability to deliver psychological treatment to soldiers.
In Chernivtsi the SMM observed the inspection of 146 military style hand weapons, with their firing pins removed or barrels cut, which had been taken into police possession on 6 March (see SMM Daily Report 6 March 2015). The police cited several recent cases where suspects have used similar weapons to intimidate or rob people.
The SMM travelled to Borova (146km south-east of Kharkiv) where it observed rigorous inspections of vehicles at checkpoints, and was later told by a local civilian official in Borova of extra precautionary measures being taken in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Kharkiv.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Ivano-Frankivsk, Kherson, Odessa and Kyiv.
* 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:
- The SMM was denied passage by “DPR” members manning a checkpoint at the entrance to Shyrokyne due to ongoing exchanges of fire in the vicinity.
- The SMM was denied passage through a Ukrainian Armed Forces-manned checkpoint on the outskirts of Hranitne (government-controlled, 57km south of Donetsk) due to security concerns specified as shelling.
- At Raihorodka (government-controlled, 34km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM was told by state border guards, who operate throughout the area, that the SMM could not proceed without an escort; this escort was then present as SMM met various interlocutors.
- At one Ukrainian Armed Forces storage location in the Luhansk region the SMM was denied access to heavy weapons there because – according to Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel – these items were not on a list of weapons provided to the OSCE by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
- On two occasions in the Luhansk region, when encountering Ukrainian Armed Forces convoys with heavy weapons, away from the contact line, the SMM was told not to follow these convoys.