Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 20 March 2015
This report is for media and the general public.
The SMM monitored 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 artillery and mortar fire in a number of locations.
Between 10:00 and 10:08hrs, while on patrol* in Kyivskyi district of Donetsk city (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 7.5km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard 16 distant explosions of undetermined origin. The SMM could not specify the direction or the distance to the origin of the explosions, or the weapon type used. Between 10:34 and 10:38hrs at Manezhnyi Avenue (“DPR”-controlled, approximately 9km north-west of Donetsk city centre) the SMM heard bursts of outgoing anti-aircraft and heavy-machine-gun fire from about 1.5km north of its position. Moreover, at the same location, at 10:42hrs, the SMM heard four explosions of undetermined source from 3-6km west of its position, coming from the area of Pisky (government-controlled, 12km north-west of Donetsk).
Between the two government-controlled villages of Sopyne (99km south of Donetsk, 15km east of Mariupol) and Lebedynske (83km south of Donetsk, 16km east of Mariupol) the SMM heard from 6:15 to 6:20hrs sporadic small-arms fire and some mortar shells (estimated calibre of 82mm) originating from an east-south-easterly direction. The SMM could not ascertain whether it was incoming or outgoing fire. At 10:45hrs the SMM heard two mortar shells, but was unable to determine distance, direction or calibre. From 14:53 to 17:16hrs the SMM heard five mortar shells originating from a north-westerly direction; one mortar shell originating from a south-easterly direction; four tank shells originating from a south-easterly direction; and small-arms and heavy machine-gun fire originating from a south-easterly direction. The SMM could not ascertain the intended target of this firing.
At a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) checkpoint on the main road (Highway 66) from Hirske (government-controlled, 62km north-west of Luhansk) to Luhansk city, a Cossack commander from Alchevsk (”LPR”-controlled, 40km south-west of Luhansk) was to meet one of his Ukrainian Armed Forces counterparts. At last moment, however, the latter declined to participate, citing ceasefire violations (small arms and artillery fire) on 19 March near Stanytsia Luhanska (government-controlled, 16km north-east of Luhansk) and Krymske (government-controlled, 43km north-west of Luhansk).
The SMM visited the remains of a bridge connecting “LPR”- and government-controlled territories in Stanytsia Luhanska. The Cossack commander of a checkpoint on “LPR”-controlled territory told the SMM that at 18:45hrs on 19 March shelling had started from government-controlled territory. According to him, immediately after the withdrawal of his forces to the “LPR”-controlled side of the river the shelling had stopped. At approximately 19:00hrs four trucks, followed by a car, had crossed the bridge from the government-controlled side. The driver of the car had got out and returned to the government-controlled side. The vehicle had then exploded, largely destroying the bridge. The SMM observed people carefully crossing the remains of the bridge, which is the only crossing point in the area. The SMM spoke to several inhabitants of Stanytsia Luhanska and Makarove (government-controlled, 19km north-east of Luhansk) who expressed fears about the economic consequences, as the bridge’s destruction prevented them from reaching their main market in Luhansk.
At the headquarters of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in government-controlled Soledar (77km north of Donetsk) the Russian Colonel-General, Representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the JCCC, gave a similar account of the destruction of the bridge and said that a remote-controlled explosive device had been used.
At 08:15hrs, while in Khoroshe (“LPR”-controlled, 35km west of Luhansk) the SMM heard five or six impacts of artillery fire, at a distance of about 25km to the south-west.
The SMM revisited three Ukrainian Armed Forces, five “DPR” and one “LPR” storage site and verified that all the weapons previously recorded were in situ. All serial numbers conform to the previous visits.
Despite claims of progress or completion of withdrawal of heavy weapons, the SMM observed heavy weapons in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Between 08:46 and 09:20hrs, 10km north-west of Donetsk city centre (“DPR”-controlled), the SMM heard between 15 and 20 explosions, consistent with artillery and 120mm mortar rounds. The SMM could not ascertain whether the rounds were incoming or outgoing. At 10:38hrs, on Manezhnyi Avenue (“DPR”-controlled, approximately 9km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard 11 outgoing artillery rounds, coming from the Spartak area (“DPR”-controlled, 11km north-west of Donetsk). Between 10:42 and 10:48hrs, in the same location, the SMM heard one outgoing heavy mortar unit (probably 120mm calibre), bursts of outgoing heavy-machine-gun fire and explosions consistent with incoming automatic-grenade-launcher fire. The sounds came from approximately 1km north of the SMM’s position, near Donetsk airport. From 11:38 to 12:08hrs, on Manezhnyi Avenue, the SMM heard 30 rounds of outgoing artillery fire from a location approximately 1.5km east of its position. The SMM assessed that the fire was directed at the area of Opytne (government-controlled, 11.5km north-west of Donetsk) and Avdiivka (government-controlled, 12.5km north-north-west of Donetsk).
At 11:50hrs, in Avdiivka, the SMM heard mortar shelling (probably 122mm and 82mm) from the direction of Spartak towards Opytne. At 12:50hrs representatives of “anti-terrorism operation” (“ATO”) informed the SMM about heavy fighting near Opytne.
While approaching Makiiivka (“DPR”-controlled, 13km east-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM saw two main battle tanks (T-72) moving west.
Near Shchastia (government-controlled, 20km north of Luhansk) the SMM saw one main battle tank (MBT) T-64. Later the SMM saw another, or possibly the same, tank.
Near Hirske (government-controlled, 62km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM saw a stationary MBT (T-64).
In Lutuhyne (“LPR”-controlled, 21km south-west of Luhansk) the SMM saw two tanks (T-72).
In Lviv the SMM attended a press conference at whichnon-governmental organisations (NGO) were advocating for the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Crimea. The NGOs presented findings of an opinion poll of local perceptions of IDPs in five cities – Kharkiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Lviv and Vinnytsia. According to the poll many media had been portraying IDPs negatively, emphasising their dependence on state benefits, and influence on the prices of real estate and consumer goods. According to the poll, the children of IDP families were easily registered in kindergartens in Kharkiv and elsewhere. IDPs from Crimea were perceived more positively than those from the Donbass. Perceptions tended to deteriorate in the wake of each mobilization phase, especially because of the Donbass IDPs’ criticism of that process. According to the poll, Tatar IDPs from Crimea felt generally comfortable and claimed to have faced no discrimination in these five cities.
The SMM monitored an event on the Maidan in Kyiv at which approximately 200 uniformed military men held a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the establishment of the first voluntary battalion by Maidan self-defence groups. Battalion members walked to Instytutska Street to commemorate the “heavenly hundred”. About 10 police officers were present at the event, which lasted for two hours and passed off peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Odessa, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk.
* 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 ceasefire 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:
- The SMM was denied access to a compound at Dmytriya Pozharskoho Street in Donetsk. (“DPR”-controlled, 4km west of Donetsk city centre) due to alleged unavailability of the local commander and his deputy.
- On its way to Mariupol (government-controlled, 102km south-south-west of Donetsk, the SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint at the entrance to the city. Checkpoint personnel recorded identities of SMM members and, registration plate numbers of OSCE vehicles. After 35 minutes the SMM was allowed to proceed.
- The SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on the north-western edge of Luhanske (government-controlled, 57km north-north-east of Donetsk). After15 minutes the SMM was told that the battalion commander did not grant the SMM permission to proceed. The Ukrainian Chief of Staff at the JCCC HQ was contacted and agreed to investigate.
- The SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint 2km north of Pervomaiske (government-controlled, 85km south-west of Donetsk) and was told by the commander that it could not proceed. The SMM contacted JCCC representatives who then communicated with the checkpoint commander. After 15 minutes the SMM was allowed to pass the checkpoint.