Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 30 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 around Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne.
(* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.)
While in the area of Donetsk airport* (“Donetsk People’s Republic”- “DPR”-controlled, 11km north-west of Donetsk city centre), from 11:20 to 13:00hrs, the SMM heard 32 incoming and outgoing explosions, heavy-machine-gun fire and small-arms fire from a distance of between 300m and 4km in a direction north and north-north-west of its position. Based on the sound the SMM assessed that the explosions had been caused by automatic-grenade-launcher fire and mortar shelling. From 12:13 to 12:23hrs, the SMM heard three explosions at a distance of about 3.5km west of its position. From 12:34 to 12:45hrs, the SMM heard the sound of what it assessed to be three outgoing mortar rounds from a distance of about 1.5km east of its position. At 13:04hrs the SMM heard three explosions at a distance of about 4.5km south-east of its position.
The SMM monitored the airport area from a location at the new terminal parking lot, where human remains in an unidentifiable military-style uniform still remained at the same position as previously observed (see SMM Daily Report 30 March 2015).
The SMM went to School No. 21 in the Kuibyshevskyi district of Donetsk (“DPR”-controlled, 2.5km south of Donetsk airport and 8.5km north of Donetsk city centre). The school director told the SMM that the school had reopened on 16 March. According to the director 100 pupils, aged six to 17, have returned to school – down from a pre-conflict enrolment of 500 children. He said currently all 38 teachers, mostly women, are working and were last paid in November 2014, by “DPR” structures.
The SMM accessed Shyrokyne (“DPR”-controlled, 20km east of Mariupol) travelling initially south-west from Donetsk and subsequently west through the village Sakhanka (1km east of Shyrokyne). At the “DPR” checkpoint at the northern edge of Shyrokyne, the SMM were forced to wait 25 minutes for a “DPR” escort vehicle* before being allowed to proceed. Further into the village the SMM observed a small Toyota pick-up truck, painted in camouflage scheme without registration plates and estimated that the vehicle was hit at the front from a westerly direction, by a wire-guided anti-tank missile. The SMM found the base and wire spool of the missile. Later, at approximately one kilometre east of the incident site, the SMM found an anti-tank guided missile wire draped over power lines, originating from the west, from a probable firing position located on an elevated ridge overlooking the E58 highway. The SMM saw the remains of one person. According to the “DPR”, after the incident, the vehicle blocked the road and therefore it was moved to the roadside. The SMM observed blood near the vehicle’s original location.
The SMM then was able to proceed into Shyrokyne*, where it observed new damage. The SMM observed a lot of shrapnel on the roads and more unexploded ordnances (UXOs) than during the last visit to the area. The SMM monitored the eastern edge of the village, and also succeeded this time to proceed into the southern part of the village, although debris and fallen power lines blocked some roads. The SMM also observed the state of the village school. Its westerly facing wall had been destroyed by direct fire and shelling, which had caused the roof to collapse.
The SMM facilitated an encounter on highway E58 between the Ukrainian Armed Forces commander and the “DPR” “commander” in charge of Shyrokyne area. They had a conversation during which they discussed a possible local ceasefire at battalion level in order to assess the humanitarian situation in the village, including the damaged southern part and the local school.
Whilst at an observation point at the eastern outskirts of Berdianske (government-controlled, 1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 19km east of Mariupol), the SMM heard from 13:35 to 13:55hrs mortar shelling outgoing from east of its location towards a northerly direction. At 15:00hrs the SMM monitored small arms fire and three incoming explosions, most likely mortar shells impacting in Shyrokyne, east of the SMM’s location. At 15:15hrs the SMM monitored sporadic exchanges of fire which from 15:20hrs turned into an intense exchange of fire, including at least 15 tank shells, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, as well as what sounded like mortar shelling from west of the SMM’s location. The SMM estimated that the fire originated most likely from a 128mm multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS). From 16:20hrs the exchanges of fire and shelling intensified, until at least around 17:00hrs when the SMM left.
The SMM spoke in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk city) at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint with personnel from the Aidar volunteer battalion. According to them they were targeted by small arms fire during the night between 29 and 30 March, during which two battalion members had sustained injuries. The SMM observed blood trails on the ground.
The SMM met with the local police commander in government-controlled Svatove (127km north-west of Luhansk), who said that his police station covers five districts that are currently under “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) control. According to him, in these districts, there were 300 cases of car thefts reported to the police (no specific time period was indicated). Concerning organized crime, the police commander emphasized that the most significant case solved recently has been the arrest of 12 members of the so-called "Philat gang". Some of those arrested, he said, were members of the Aidar volunteer battalion. According to the interlocutor, the members of the mentioned criminal group are suspected of having committed three murders in Starobilsk (government-controlled, 84km north of Luhansk), abducted a number of businessmen for ransom and been in possession of a large amount of weapons and explosives.
The SMM monitored one “DPR” holding area of heavy weapons and had to wait* approximately 40 minutes for the “DPR” “commander” in charge. This was the SMM’s first visit to this holding area. The SMM recorded the heavy weapons present. The SMM went to a second “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, which it had first visited on 27 March, but was denied access by the “DPR”.*
In Kharkiv the SMM followed up on media reports about an explosion that occurred at 00:30hrs on 30 March. According to reports one man was killed. The SMM went to the spot, but was unable to observe the site as it was under the control of the Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) as an active crime scene. According to information provided by the SBU, the explosion was caused by an explosive device targeting a diesel fuel tank. The SBU has classified the event as a terrorist act.
The SMM followed up on media reports about an explosion that occurred on 28 March in Odessa. The SMM went to the site at Staroportofrankivska Street and observed damage to several windows of a building. The SMM saw a gas pipe close to the site of the explosion, but it was not damaged. The SMM entered the building and saw two police officers guarding the site. They confirmed to the SMM that the explosion had happened on 28 March around 22:30hrs, and that there was only minor material damage. The building administrator informed the SMM that the building housed a “centre for assistance to the military in the ATO”. In a telephone conversation, the centre co-ordinator informed the SMM that the centre was created about a month ago and was meant as a rehabilitation place (including psychological rehabilitation) for soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv 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 the SMM’s freedom of movement.
In particular during the reporting period:
-For five patrols, the SMM was escorted by the “DPR”.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel manning a checkpoint in the vicinity of government-controlled Raihorodka (34km north-west of Luhansk) insisted to be informed about the nationalities of SMM monitors in the vehicle. The SMM was stopped for 15mins and allowed to pass the checkpoint after informing about the nationalities of the monitors.
- The SMM was stopped at a temporary Ukrainian Armed Forces road block in the vicinity of Luhanske (government-controlled, 57km north-east of Donetsk) and were not allowed to pass. The initial reason given was ongoing repair work on the bridge ahead, but it was later confirmed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel were under orders not to let vehicles through. The SMM did not use alternative routes due to security concerns and were therefore unable to access Luhanske.
-Upon reaching Shyrokyne, at a “DPR” checkpoint, the SMM was temporarily delayed by 25 minutes, waiting for the “DPR” commander to arrive to allow the SMM entry to the village.
- The SMM had to wait 20-25 minutes at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in government-controlled Volnovakha (52km south-west of Donetsk), where it was asked by Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers about citizenships of patrol members.
- At a “DPR” holding area of heavy weapons the SMM had to wait 40 minutes for the “DPR” commander in order to be allowed to access the building.