Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 1 April 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 the Donetsk airport, and that the area around the Shyrokyne was relatively calm. The SMM saw Ukrainian Armed Forces volunteer battalion members working jointly with “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) members on the reconstruction of a bridge in the Luhansk region.
The SMM assessed the overall situation across the Donetsk region to be relatively calm, with the exception of the area in and around “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport (8km north-west of Donetsk).*
From 11:03 to 11:35hrs, at a location 1km east to the entrance of Donetsk airport, the SMM heard 22 explosions consistent with incoming and outgoing mortar rounds, automatic grenade launcher fire and sporadic bursts of heavy machine gun fire, at a distance of 3-4km northwest from the SMM. At 11:21hrs the SMM heard several instances of small arms fire 1.5km north of its location. Starting at 11:52hrs the SMM heard 21 explosions consistent with incoming automatic grenade launcher fire, impacting 2-3km west of its location.
From a location in front of the new terminal of Donetsk airport, at 12:21hrs, the SMM heard three shots fired by a high-powered semiautomatic rifle around 800m northwest of its position. The SMM did not see where these shots were impacting. At 12:48hrs the SMM heard six explosions 4-5km west from its position. At 13:15hrs the SMM heard three outgoing mortar rounds, assessed to have been 120mm, fired 1km northeast of the SMM’s location, and two mortar impacts 3-4km west of the SMM’s location.
The SMM also observed two fires between the old and new terminals of Donetsk airport. A member of the “DPR” told the SMM that these fires had been caused by the impacts of an automatic grenade launcher at around 11:15hrs.
At 11:33hrs, while at the area of Yasynuvata-Pasazhyrs'ka station (13.5km north of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) the SMM heard three instances of heavy machine gun fire from a western direction, 5-8 km distance from the SMM’s location.
In Shyrokyne (“DPR”-controlled, 16km east of Mariupol) the situation was relatively calm but remained tense. The SMM observed the area around Shyrokyne from two positions, to the north-west and to the west of Shyrokyne village. The relative tranquility gave the SMM the opportunity to approach residents. In Sopyne (government-controlled, 15km east of Mariupol, 2.5km west of Shyrokyne), an elderly resident spoke of deteriorating living conditions in Sopyne due to poor access to public services, pensions not being received and difficulties in being able to afford food. Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel told the SMM that Sopyne had been shelled on 31 March by the “DPR”, despite earlier discussions between the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the “DPR” for a local ceasefire to start at 16:00hrs on 31 March. The SMM inspected a house in Sopyne that had been partially destroyed by mortar shelling on 31 March, and was told by its sole resident that he had been unharmed by virtue of being in a different part of the house than the corner that was hit. On the outskirts of Sopyne members of the Azov volunteer battalion told the SMM of incoming mortar shelling that had occurred between 16:00 and 20:00hrs on 31 March, and that three of their number had been injured; the SMM were shown craters caused by this shelling. Between 15:45 and 15:59hrs, the SMM heard 11 outgoing mortar rounds and eight outgoing artillery rounds, fired to the east of the SMM’s position.
The SMM travelled to Novoazovsk* (“DPR”-controlled, 43km east of Mariupol, 97km southeast of Donetsk) escorted by a “DPR” vehicle. The SMM proceeded to the Ukrainian-Russian Federation border crossing point (“DPR”-controlled, 52km east of Mariupol, 100km southeast of Donetsk) unescorted. The SMM spoke to residents in Novoazovsk about their living conditions, and to a “DPR border guard” about the volume of traffic passing across the border crossing point
The SMM assessed the overall situation in the Luhansk region to be calm. However, the SMM heard three distant explosions: while in government-controlled Muratove (50km north-west of Luhansk), between 11:00 and 11:04hrs, the SMM heard two distant explosions to the north-east. While in the government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), at 11:30hrs, the SMM heard one explosion to the east.
In government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw members of the Aidar volunteer battalion, jointly working with two “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) members on the reconstruction of a bridge which had been destroyed on 19 March (see SMM Daily Report 20 March). The SMM observed them unloading wooden poles from a truck and spoke to both the Aidar volunteer battalion and “LPR” members. The SMM saw the two sides working constructively together. The SMM had earlier visited the bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska to facilitate a meeting between “LPR” members and Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives, to discuss the possibility of their co-operation in reconstructing the bridge to make it usable for pedestrian traffic (see SMM Daily Report 29 March).
The SMM revisited three Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas and was able to verify that all weapons previously recorded as present by the SMM were on site. At a fourth location, the SMM observed that one towed gun was missing. The officer in charge said it was out for training and that it would be returned soon. After 15 minutes the SMM saw the towed gun returned to the location.
In Kyiv the SMM monitored a press conference announcing the launch of the non-governmental initiative the ‘Crimea Action Group’ (CAG), organized by the CAG and the Office of the President. It explained that its task would be to develop a uniform legal stance with respect to dealing with Crimean issues at the international level. The speakers stated that the de facto authorities in Crimea had not re-registered the licence of the only Crimean Tatar TV channel, ATR, and ATR had consequently stopped broadcasting on 1 April.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Chernivtsi, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Odessa, 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 the “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.
- The SMM attempted to visit government-controlled Krymske, (51km north-west of Luhansk), but was not allowed to pass a nearby Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint. Soldiers at this checkpoint explained to the SMM that it was too dangerous to drive on, but did not specify why.
- At the entrance to Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 36km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM was stopped at a “DPR” checkpoint and told by a “DPR” member that the SMM was not allowed to enter Horlivka. The SMM saw that at this checkpoint “DPR” members were allowing other vehicles to pass.