Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 11 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* – observed that fighting continued in areas in and around the Donetsk airport and in areas to the east of Mariupol.
The SMM, together with representatives of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), conducted a follow-up visit to the Donetsk airport. Upon arrival, the SMM observed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) “emergency services” personnel together with captives recovering bodies of deceased Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers. The SMM also observed three “DPR” members and two captives removing bodies from a burnt out infantry fighting vehicle (IFV). The SMM spoke to one of the captives who stated he had been with the IFV crew at the time of the incident. While close to the new terminal’s entrance, the SMM heard 13 bursts of small-arms fire coming from north-east, north-west, south-south-west and east of its position. The SMM also heard 52 explosions coming from south, north-east, west, north, south-west and north-west directions, at an approximate distance of 4.5km. Due to the strong wind, the SMM could not determine the type of weapons that were used, the exact distance of origin of the fire, nor if it was outgoing or incoming.
At a checkpoint near government-controlled Pisky (12km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard approximately 20 incoming mortar and artillery rounds. The Ukrainian Armed Forces commander said that “DPR” forces had been shelling from the direction of the airport. The commander then led the SMM to the outskirts of Pisky, where, he said, a mortar strike had hit 20 minutes earlier and the SMM witnessed the damage along with mortar remnants in the area.
Whilst traveling through “DPR”-controlled Michurene (62km south of Donetsk), less than 15km from the line of contact, the SMM observed four stationary main battle tanks (MBT), 125mm, within the town’s limits.
From its position on a hilltop on the eastern outskirts of government-controlled Berdianske (98km south of Donetsk, 18km east of Mariupol) from around 06:40 to 13:45hrs the SMM heard intensive exchanges of fire, including with heavy machine guns and small arms, as well as outgoing and incoming tank and mortar shelling of varying intensity. In total, the SMM heard more than 100 (82mm and 120mm) mortar shells fired, mostly originating north and north-north-east of its position, and four originating west of its position; more than 40 tank shells from a location north-north-east and east of its position; and multiple heavy machine-gun, automatic-grenade-launcher and other small-arms fire, originating mostly north-north-east of its position. The SMM estimated that most exchanges of fire heard during the observation period occurred from in and around Shyrokyne (97km south of Donetsk, 20km east of Mariupol).
The SMM visited, for the second time, three Ukrainian Armed Forces weapons storage sites in the Donetsk region, and observed in total 10 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS, 122mm), five mortars (122mm), four self-propelled howitzers (152mm), four self-propelled howitzers (122mm), six Uragan systems and 22 towed howitzers (152mm). The SMM observed that the storage sites were located behind the relevant withdrawal lines. The SMM patrolled from Dnepropetrovsk to monitor two Ukrainian Armed Forces weapons storage sites in the Zaporizhzhia region. At both locations, the SMM found the weapons observed to be consistent with the inventory conducted in the previous visits.
The SMM Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) conducted operational flights on both sides of the line of contact within the security zone. The flight area stretched from approximately 60km north of Donetsk city towards Stakhanov some 90km north-east from Donetsk as well as in the vicinity of Ilovaisk, some 30km south-east of Donetsk. During the flight over “DPR”-controlled Spartak district of Donetsk the UAV recorded ongoing shelling several hundred meters north-east of the Donetsk airport. Furthermore, while flying over government-controlled Pisky the UAV observed very recent shelling marks and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure, which was on fire as a result of the shelling. One battle tank and three armoured personnel carriers (APCs) were observed in the area. While flying over “DPR” controlled Ilovaisk the UAV Team obtained imagery of what appeared to be a cargo being off-loaded from a train onto 14 military trucks. Further observations included government, “DPR” and “LPR” check points, some of which appeared abandoned, several battle tanks and APCs.
In “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Sverdlovsk (61km south-east of Luhansk) the SMM was told by a local resident that her son, a former serviceman with the Ukrainian Border Guard Service, was “arrested” on 7 March and detained by members of the "Komendatura" (military-type investigative body). The “Komendatura” confirmed to the SMM that they are holding 10 former Ukrainian border guards. They are under “investigation” but there are no charges against them at the moment. The “Komendatura” told the SMM that each case will be decided individually and the patrol members would not be allowed to speak to the detainees.
While at a checkpoint in “LPR”-controlled Brianka (49km west of Luhansk) the SMM’s vehicles were searched by Cossack armed persons. The SMM then met the Cossack deputy commander of the area who informed the SMM that it was free to travel during the day in his area of responsibility without an escort. Later, the SMM travelled to a checkpoint at the entrance to “LPR”-controlled Stakhanov (50km west of Luhansk), from where it was guided by an escort to the Cossack regimental command headquarters in Stakhanov. The Cossack commander in Stakhanov invited the SMM to monitor the Cossack defensive positions in the area and “granted freedom of movement” for the SMM accompanied by an escort.*
The SMM followed up on media reports that an explosion had occurred during the night of 10 March on a railway line in the vicinity of Chuhuiv (40km south-east of Kharkiv). A representative of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) confirmed to the SMM that the incident had occurred and that no casualties were reported. The detonation hit a passenger train and damaged one of the wagons, as well as the railway track.
In Odessa, the SMM monitored a demonstration organized by the “Pravyy Sektor” (Right Sector) in front of the building of the regional Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). The SMM observed about 100 activists – mainly men, of mixed age – belonging to the Right Sector, Svoboda party, Council of Public Security (a local self-defence group), Euromaidan and other groups. Approximately 40 police were visible at the scene while approximately 100 police were observed in small groups in the immediate surroundings. One of the participants, who presented himself as the head of the Odessa Right Sector, accused the police of not fulfilling their duties to protect citizens, referring in particular to the events of May 2014. A spokesperson for the Odessa regional police responded that the mentioned events were still under investigation, and therefore he was not in a position to comment.
On 10 March the Lviv City Police Department informed the SMM about an unexploded hand grenade found in a garbage container in one of the city’s main streets. An explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team removed the device.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, 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 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:
-At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in government-controlled Volnovakha (47km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM was denied passage. Personnel at the checkpoint asked the SMM for their passports and nationalities.
- While at a location near Komsomolskyi village (45km south-west of Donetsk), Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel inquired about personal details and nationalities of SMM members. Afterwards, their commander stated that he had not been informed about the SMM’s movements in the area and therefore he would have to contact his commander. The SMM then waited for two hours for his commander to come. When the commander came, he stated that the SMM still had to wait longer. The SMM waited an additional 1.5hrs without any response and then turned back.
- The Cossack commander in “LPR”-controlled Stakhanov (50km west of Luhansk) allowed the SMM to monitor the Cossack defensive positions in the area, accompanied by an escort.