Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 6 April 2015
This report is for the media and general public.
The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements” which was restricted by third parties and by security considerations*. The situation around Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne remained tense. The SMM observed a vehicle of the Ukrainian Armed Forces hitting an anti-tank mine in Berdianske (government-controlled, 18km east of Mariupol) resulting in two deaths and one injury.
(* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.)
On 4 April, the SMM monitored* the convoy of the Russian Major-General, Representative of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), driving through the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled areas of Spartak (12km north-west of Donetsk city-centre), the new terminal of Donetsk airport (11km north-west of Donetsk city-centre), Vesele (10km north-west of Donetsk city-centre) and the Donetsk Volvo Centre (11km north-west of Donetsk city-centre). The local “DPR” commanders at the checkpoints along the route said to the SMM that the security situation in the area around Donetsk airport is only temporarily improving during high profile JCCC and/or SMM visits and deteriorates immediately following the departure of such delegations.
On 4 April, between 10:28 and 11:20hrs, while at the Donetsk railway station* (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre) the SMM heard two bursts of heavy machine gun fire and 16 explosions respectively 2km north-west and 3-4km west of its position, but was unable to ascertain additional information. While in the vicinity of Donetsk airport, between 11:25 and 14:00hrs, the SMM heard: (i) seven explosions consistent with outgoing mortar rounds, three fired from 700m north-east and four from 3-4km west of its position; (ii) one explosion consistent with an incoming mortar round from 3km north-northwest of its position; (iii) 27 explosions caused by undetermined ammunition type, 14 of which originated from 4-5km to the south, 11 from 3-4km to the west and two from 3-4km to the north-east of its position; (iv) several bursts of heavy machine gun and anti-aircraft gunfire from 1-2km south and south-west of its position; and, (v) sporadic bursts of small firearms from 100-200m south and 1km north-east of its position.
On 4 April, while in Avdiivka (government-controlled, 15km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard two incoming impacts and several small arms fire. Later, at a bridge near Pisky (government-controlled, 7km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard heavy machine gun fire estimated to originate from north-east of its position. In Pisky the SMM heard two outgoing and two incoming shells, which it assessed to be 82mm mortar. While in the outskirts of Avdiivka with JCCC members, the SMM observed an unexploded 152mm artillery round. The 152mm shell was estimated to have been fired from a direction of 180 degrees south based on the SMM’s compass measurement.
On 5 April, between 10:12 and 10:34hrs, while at a position close to Donetsk airport* (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard 13 explosions, six from the west and seven from the north-west of its position, all at a distance of 3-4km. Between 11:05 and 13:15hrs, while at Donetsk airport*, the SMM heard 15 explosions consistent with mortar rounds, nine automatic grenade launcher rounds, several bursts of heavy machine gun and anti-aircraft gun and three bursts of small arms fire, 3-4km west of its position and seven explosions of undetermined nature and several bursts of small arms fire 2-3km north-west of its position.
On 6 April, while stationary at Donetsk railway station*, between 11:25 and 11:29hrs the SMM heard four explosions 3-4km north-west of its position but could not ascertain additional details. Between 12:10 and 12:40hrs, the SMM also heard 46 explosions consistent with incoming and outgoing anti-aircraft gun and light mortar rounds which it estimated to have originated from the area of Pisky.
On 6 April, the SMM visited a residential house in Donetsk city’s Kyivsky district* (“DPR”-controlled, 7km north-west of Donetsk city centre) whose owner claimed it had been damaged by shelling the previous evening. The SMM observed extensive fire damage to the second floor but could not identify the cause of the fire or any signs indicating a weapons impact.
On 4 April, while in Horlivka* (“DPR”-controlled, 36km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard two explosions, both at approximately 10km from its position, one to the east-north-east and the other to the east-south-east but was unable to ascertain further details.
On 6 April, while in Yenakiieve* (“DPR”-controlled, 37 km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard ten explosions north-north-west of its position, the first at 10km and closing in with the last one at approximately 7km, but could not ascertain additional details.
On 4 April, while in Svitlodarsk (government-controlled, 55km north of Donetsk) the SMM heard two incoming artillery shells south of its position and small arms fire at approximately 1km but could not ascertain additional details.
On 6 April, in Luhanske (government-controlled, 55km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard 11 incoming 122mm artillery rounds from 2-3km and 5-7km east of its position. While in Luhanske, local residents, one man and four women, said to the SMM that electricity was still lacking in some areas and alleged the looting of private houses and confiscation of vehicles some of which was attributed to heavy drinking among the soldiers.
On 5 April, at an observation point located in government-controlled area near Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) the SMM heard five rounds of small arms fire at 08:20hrs. At 10:53hrs, at approximately 800m north of its position, the SMM observed a military vehicle entering the field and detonating on what it assessed to be an anti-tank mine. The SMM observed soldiers extracting one person from the vehicle and laying two bodies on the side. On 6 April, at the same observation point, the SMM heard a huge detonation at 08:30hrs east of the observation point but could not ascertain additional details, at 10:00hrs it observed an unidentified Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flying east to west and, between 10:45 and 11:30hrs, the SMM heard tank shots east of its position but could not ascertain additional details. Between 12:05 and 12:30hrs, the SMM heard small arms fire and two explosions east of its position and, at 13:15hrs, one mortar shell outgoing from the north and impacting at the southern side of Shyrokyne. Between 13:30 and 14:00hrs the SMM heard incoming and outgoing mortar shelling and heavy machine gun fire east of its position and at 15:15hrs one shot of mortar shelling.
On 6 April, while at the JCCC office in Bezimenne (”DPR”-controlled, 15km east of Mariupol), the SMM heard a loud explosion 150m away east of its location and took refuge in a basement but was unable to determine the cause of the explosion.
On 6 April, while on highway 58 between Shyrokyne and Bezimenne, the SMM observed a vehicle hit by machine gun fire. It appeared that it was set ablaze and exploded earlier in the day. Remnants of flak jackets and RPG rockets were observed in the wreckage. A “DPR” commander on the spot, the driver and a passenger of the car were injured and had been sent to hospital in Novoazovsk.
On 4, 5 and 6 April, the SMM monitored the situation at and around the bridge linking government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) to “Lugansk People’s Republic (“LPR”)-controlled territories. On 4 April the SMM crossed the bridge and met with some elderly women who expressed concerns over the presence of concrete blocks on the side of the bridge controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which made the transport of supplies particularly difficult for vulnerable people. On 4 and 5 April, the SMM observed that the pedestrians were carrying large amounts of supplies to the “LPR”-controlled side. Most of the local residents the SMM spoke to reported difficulties on the Ukrainian side where people were arbitrarily turned away despite having secured valid permits. On 6 April the SMM observed that a wooden structure over the fallen section of the bridge had been completed which is now used by pedestrians.
On 6 April, the SMM visited Ivanivka (“LPR”-controlled, 46km south-west of Luhansk) where the acting “mayor” said that the humanitarian situation remained fragile and added that an outdoor soup kitchen currently provided one meal per day to 350 residents but that the number of persons in need was increasing. He added that traveling to government-controlled territory for pension payment was difficult and when unable to pass by Horlivka, some reported traveling via the Russian Federation through Izvaryne (“LPR”-controlled, 53km south-east of Luhansk) in which case they are fined 1,700 UAH when re-entering Ukraine as Izvaryne is not an official crossing point. The SMM could not verify this information.
On 6 April, in Schastia (government-controlled, 20km north of Luhansk) the SMM visited the Ukrainian Military Police office to obtain information on the explosion of a military vehicle on the bridge in Schastia. The officer in charge said that on 5 April between 09:30 and 10:00hrs, a vehicle carrying military personnel was blown up on the bridge resulting in the death of three passengers on the spot and the fourth one shortly after in hospital. An officer present said that the information so far indicates that the explosion was remotely launched from the “LPR” side of the contact line. The SMM could not verify this information.
On 6 April, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the occupation of the former Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building by armed groups, the SMM monitored a gathering of around 500 people, men and women of different ages, outside the SBU building in Luhansk city. Many of the participants were in uniform, waving flags and banners with “LPR” and “Novorossiya” signs.
The SMM encountered several cases of residents expressing concern over the presence of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines. In several villages, either government-controlled such as Hrechyshkyne (45km north west of Luhansk), Muratove (50 km north west of Luhansk), Peredilske (24km northwest of Luhansk) and Dzerzhynsk (government-controlled, 43km north of Donetsk) or “LPR”-controlled such as Piatyhorivka village (25km south of Luhansk) and “DPR”-controlled such as Yenakiieve (“DPR”-controlled, 37 km north-east of Donetsk), the concerns expressed were identical. The villagers not only have concerns for their safety but also for their livelihood as UXO and landmines prevent them from accessing their fields and therefore their ability to cultivate or raise livestock which are two major sources of livelihood throughout the region.
On 4 April, the SMM revisited three Ukrainian Armed Forces and two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas and was able to verify that all but one weapon previously recorded remained on site, that their locations comply with respective withdrawal lines and that all serial numbers are consistent with the previous visits. Concretely, in one of the Ukrainian Armed Forces location the SMM noted that a self-propelled artillery (2S3 152mm) was missing which the commander said was under maintenance. On 5 April, the SMM revisited three Ukrainian Armed Forces and one “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas. In the “DPR” holding area the SMM observed that two multiple launch rocket systems (Grad) were missing and no further information was provided to the SMM on their whereabouts.
The SMM observed several military movements and heavy weapons. On 4 April, the SMM observed three T64 tank emplacements in the area of Muratove (government-controlled, 50km north-west of Luhansk). On 5 April, the SMM observed a convoy of seven infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-2), two tanks (T64) and four support vehicles in the area of Samsonivka (“LPR”-controlled, 22km south-east of Luhansk). On 6 April, near Myrna Dolina (government-controlled, 67km north west of Luhansk) the SMM observed four newly deployed 100mm anti-tank guns with crew and four armoured personnel carrier (MTLB), loaded with ammunition boxes. In Styla (“DPR”-controlled, 50km south of Donetsk) the SMM observed one tank (T-72) tank and while leaving Luhanske, the SMM observed two T-64 tanks moving east towards the line of contact.
On 6 April, the SMM was informed by the police about a bomb alert at Kharkiv’s southern railway station. The station was evacuated between 12:35 and14:00hrs; no explosive device was found.
On 4 April, the SMM visited Kuchurhan (50km west of Odessa) at the Transdniestrian segment of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border to monitor a protest. Around 50 mostly young men gathered to show their support to journalist/activist Sergey Ilchenko detained on charges of extremism by the Transdniestrian “Committee for State Security” in Tiraspol. The police told the SMM that protesters had initially planned to block the border crossing point, but that had then agreed not to. The protestors explained their concerns and distributed leaflets to passing cars. The protest was monitored by some 30 police officers and ended peacefully.
On 5 April, the SMM monitored the weekly anti-Maidan protest at Kulykove Pole in Odessa, attended by approximately 80 people, half of which were women. The protestors agreed to respect the families of the deceased by not staging a protest on the anniversary of the 2 May events (See SMM Daily Reports 4 and 5 May 2014) as the grieving families would likely be present as well. Around 30 police officers as well as additional personnel from the National Guard were present. The protest ended peacefully.
On 6 April, the SMM monitored a protest in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Industry in Kyiv with approximately 100 men and women voicing their concern regarding the recent appointment of the head of the Ukrainian state company UkrSpirt and calling for a transparent appointment process. Five police officers were present and the event ended peacefully.
On 6 April, the SMM observed a group of around 30 young male and female activists in front of the Russian Federation Embassy in Kyiv holding up signs and chanting “Free Alexandr Kolchenko”, an activist who had been arrested in Crimea on 16 May 2014 and is detained in the Russian Federation. The protestors voiced their concerns over what they consider abductions and illegal arrests of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea and called for the release of political prisoners. 10 police officers were present at the event which ended peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Chernivtsi, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, 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.
- On 4 April, at the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoints of Raihorodka (government-controlled, 34km north-west of Luhansk) and Sievierodonetsk (government-controlled, 74km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM was asked for a password. The SMM explained that it did not have a password following which it was allowed to pass but was told that next time it would not be let through without a password.
- On 4 April, the SMM was denied access to an “LPR” military facility in Druzhne (LPR”-controlled, 37km south-east of Luhansk). The “commander” at the main gate stated that the SMM would not be allowed access to the site without approval from the “LPR” headquarters. The SMM attempted to visit the site again on 6 April, escorted by one “LPR” car with five persons, but was again denied access.
- On 5 April, the SMM was stopped and held for 13 minutes at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Volnovakha (government-controlled, 54km south of Donetsk) and was asked for the nationalities of patrol members.
- On 5 April, at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Petrivka (government-controlled, 32km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped and asked for the nationalities of its patrol members. The checkpoint personnel asked if there were any Russian Federation citizens amongst the patrol members following which the SMM was allowed to proceed.
- On 5 April, when attempting to enter Shyrokyne, the SMM was not allowed to pass the “DPR” checkpoint. The “commander” said that the SMM would need to be accompanied by the “DPR regimental commander”. He also stated that his men would open fire if the SMM entered Shyrokyne.
- On 6 April, at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Syrotyne (government-controlled, 70km north-west of Luhansk) a member of the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior inspected the SMM vehicles and the rucksacks of the SMM patrol members.
- On 5 April, when attempting to visit the border crossing point (BCP) in Izvaryne (“LPR”-controlled, 53km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM was stopped by a member of the “border guards”10km from the BCP who said to the SMM that according to his orders the SMM was not allowed to enter the border zone and/or visit the BCP without an authorization issued by the “ministry of state security”.
- On 6 April, at a junction 7km south-west of Khoroshylove (“LPR”-controlled, 30km east of Luhansk, located within the 15km border zone) the SMM was stopped at a mobile checkpoint manned by members of the “border guards”. The “commander” who identified himself as the “deputy commander” of the” border guard force” said they had been ordered not to allow the SMM into the border zone without an authorization by the “ministry for state security”. The “deputy commander” then contacted his “commander” following which the SMM was advised to proceed to Luhansk city to meet a representative of the “ministry for state security”. Upon arrival at the “ministry for state security” in Luhansk the duty officer enquired about the SMM’s intentions to visit the border zone and reiterated that when/if access was granted a meeting could be arranged with the “minister of state security” to arrange the procedure for visiting the border zone.