Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 13 March 2015
This report is for the media and 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 around the Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne, east of Mariupol. At the Donetsk airport, the SMM observed that bodies of Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers were being recovered.
At the Donetsk airport new terminal, the SMM observed the arrival of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) “emergency services”, together with 20 captives, whom the “DPR” referred to as Ukrainian soldiers, who shortly after started searching for deceased Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers. The SMM saw two bodies being recovered from the rubble and prepared to be transported. After the preliminary identification of the bodies was made, the personal belongings were collected and handed over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) present at the scene. While at the airport, between 12:10 and 12:20hrs, the SMM heard 15 explosions in a south-westerly direction of its location. Between 12:25 and 13:43hrs the SMM heard 31 explosions south of its position. In both cases SMM could not determine the types of weapons that were used, the distance of the origin of the sound, or if it was incoming or outgoing fire. Between 13:34 and 13:49hrs the SMM heard approximately 20 single shots of small arms fire in an area approximately 500 to 700m south-east of its position.*
While in government-controlled Pisky (11km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard two incoming mortar rounds: one 82mm and the other 120mm. The fire originated from the east. At a location close to “DPR”-controlled Donetsk, after passing a check point on road H15, the SMM observed a stationary main battle tank (T-72) a few hundred meters outside Donetsk city limits.*
At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) office in “DPR”-controlled Dokuchayevsk (30km south-south east of Donetsk) the SMM met with Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces officers. The Ukrainian officer informed the SMM about the JCCC’s unsuccessful attempt, on 21 February, to oversee the withdrawal of “DPR” weapons (two main battle tanks) from “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk). According to the interlocutor, on the day and at the location, a local “DPR” commander, without giving any explanation, had forced both Russian and Ukrainian officers to lie on the ground with their hands behind their heads, effectively aborting their efforts to oversee the planned undertaking. *
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in and around Shyrokyne (97km south of Donetsk, 10km east of Mariupol) from a location close to government-controlled Sopyne (99km south of Donetsk). The SMM heard over one hundred mortar shells (both 120mm and 82mm) and more than 35 tank shells originating from two to three kilometres south-east of its position from government-controlled area, with an impact heard approximately four to five kilometres east of the SMM position in the north-eastern outskirts of Shyrokyne. The SMM could also hear heavy machine gun, small arms and automatic grenade launcher fire originating from the outskirts of Shyrokyne. However, due to distance and weather conditions, the SMM could not determine the exact location.
The SMM re-visited five Ukrainian Armed Forces’ storage sites for heavy weapons. The SMM observed in particular two mortars; four MRLS (BMP-21 “Grad”); 31 howitzers and 19 MRLS (BMP-27 “Uragan”). The weapons the SMM observed during the visits were beyond the respective withdrawal lines.
While the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) had yet to provide the SMM with any information about defensive positions or storage sites, the SMM tried to assess the potential presence of weapons at a location in “LPR”-controlled territory, but was prevented from doing so. Upon arrival at the location, the SMM was denied access by “LPR” armed persons on the grounds of security concerns.* On 13 March, the SMM returned to the same location, where, at the main checkpoint, the Cossack “commander” let SMM pass and proceed with an escort* to different places, which were inspected by the SMM. No traces of armament, military vehicles or troops were observed.
The SMM travelled to government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) to assess the security situation on road H21 and at the bridge over the Sievierskyi Donets river. At the last “LPR” controlled checkpoint (approximately 14km north of Luhansk) before the bridge leading to Shchastia, the SMM was told that the road is mined and vehicle movement across the bridge is not permitted*. The SMM saw a line of at least 10 anti-tank mines on the tarmac on the left side of the road (at the entrance of the bridge,) and at least six holes in the tarmac (towards the exit of the bridge, in the direction of Shchastia) containing, according to the interlocutor, anti-tank mines. SMM monitors proceeded on foot to the bridge. On the spot, the SMM observed that the bridge had been hit by several mortars, but had no significant damages. The SMM also observed several layers of anti-tank mines at the entries/exits and in the middle of the bridge and two tanks (T-64) at the northern exit of the bridge. At the northern exit of the bridge the SMM met a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander who said that the situation in the area, with a few exceptions, was calm, apart from sporadic small arms shootings.
The SMM visited the Ukraine-Russian Federation border crossing at Pletenivka (87km northeast of Kharkiv) to follow up on the implementation of a new law, introduced on 1 March, regulating border crossing, and requiring citizens of the Russian Federation to enter Ukraine with an international passport. The acting head of the border guard unit told the SMM that commercial traffic at the border crossing at Pletenivka had diminished by 50 to 60 percent since the introduction of the new border crossing law on 1 March. In terms of passenger traffic, the interlocutor stated that some 1000 vehicles (500 in each direction), including 5-6 buses, were crossing both ways every day. He also explained that, until 16 March 2015, the original agreement of intergovernmental border crossings between Ukraine and the Russian Federation would be respected according to special provisions for the population of border areas – in this case, residents from Kharkiv and Belgorod regions– who still only need a national passport to cross.
The SMM monitored a rally in front of the Kyiv’s Mayor Office, which gathered about 800 persons, men and women of all ages. The participants were waving flags with the writings “Peace and Justice”, and “People’s Sentence” and were protesting against corruption and the city authorities, but did not put forward specific demands. The SMM observed that the number of protestors rapidly increased to 2000. The crowd then marched down Khreshchatyk Street in an orderly manner and once on Maidan square, turned to Instytutska Street heading to the Government buildings to demonstrate in those locations. The security forces present during the event were a mix of uniformed police and National Guard. The SMM observed 50 - 70 police officers monitoring the protest, which ended peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Lviv.
* 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 checkpoint in “LPR”-controlled territory the SMM was denied access by “LPR” armed persons on 12 March. On the following day, at the same location, a Cossack “commander” granted SMM access but with the provision of an escort.
At the bridge over the Sievierskyi Donets river,“LPR”-personnel at a checkpoint before the bridge leading to Shchastia, denied the SMM passage by vehicle on the grounds that the road was mined.