Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 16 April 2015
This report is for the media and general public.
For a complete breakdown of recorded ceasefire violations during the reporting period see the document.
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 ongoing intensive fighting in and around Donetsk airport. The situation, however, remained relatively calm around Shyrokyne, and mostly calm in the rest of the Donetsk region and the Luhansk region.
Fighting continued in Donetsk airport and in adjacent areas, including government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north-north-west of Donetsk), and near government-controlled Pisky (15km north-west of Donetsk city-centre). From an observation point at Donetsk railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre) the SMM heard multiple explosions from mortars, artillery and bursts of small arms and heavy machine gun fire throughout the day. Explosions were also heard near government-controlled Berdianske (1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 20km east of Mariupol), although Shyrokyne itself remained calm. Please see details in the annexed table of ceasefire violations.
At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic”-controlled, 8km northwest of Donetsk city centre) the SMM witnessed attempts by the JCCC to organise three ceasefires (to begin at 08:50hrs, 09:30hrs and 11:00hrs respectively) flounder as sporadic firing of mortars and machine guns started within a few minutes of the arranged start time. According to both Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces officers at the observation point, an unidentified “third party” was provoking the two sides. The Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces officers informed the SMM that they had negotiated a fourth ceasefire which the SMM observed being respected from 13:07 to 15:37hrs. The SMM also monitored the Russian Federation Armed Forces Colonel General-led team on a visit to the destroyed new terminal building at Donetsk airport. Two decomposed corpses in fatigues were seen by the SMM at two separate sites (one on the terminal’s second floor that was previously reported in SMM Daily Report, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/149996); another (previously not seen) was outside. At the JCCC Headquarters in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM were present when both Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff were informed of on-going shelling in and around the area of Donetsk airport, at the time the Russian Federation Armed Forces Colonel General was visiting. Both Chiefs of Staff were observed making phone calls in an attempt to stop the shelling.
An SMM team, including the Deputy Chief Monitor entered Shyrokyne (contested, 20km east of Mariupol) without difficulty or escort and reached the eastern and north-eastern parts of the village for the first time. The SMM spoke to villagers who said that there had been shelling overnight. All were unanimous in claiming that the ceasefire holds when the SMM is present in the village, but that violations occur after they withdraw. Some spoke of their desire to leave, others of the desperate living conditions in the village. Around 35 residents remain in the village, according to SMM estimates. Food and water supplies are running low. The SMM proceeded to a residential street to which initially they were refused access by “DPR”*. The situation was calm apart from small arms fire heard in the afternoon.
The SMM monitored the removal of human remains and aircraft wreckage from two MH-17 crash sites near “DPR”-controlled Hrabove (58km east of Donetsk) by a team from the Netherlands supported by members of the “DPR” “ministry of emergency”. The overall security situation was quiet.
The SMM saw unloaded trucks marked with banners reading “Humanitarian Aid from the Russian Federation” at the “Centre for Rehabilitation Control” in “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (12km east-north-east of Donetsk). A representative of the “Centre for Rehabilitation Control” (CRC) showed the SMM what he said was unloaded from the trucks – foodstuffs, and also pipes and valves to repair damaged gas and water pipelines.
In Luhansk, the SMM monitored the arrival of a 60 truck convoy from the Russian Federation. Interlocutors showed the SMM the cargo (canned food, oil, rice and cereals) said to have been offloaded, which was stored at three different sites.
Residents (two men, two women) in government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) told the SMM that the village has been without electricity for three months. They also said that the bridge is partly destroyed making it impossible for public transport to cross, which impedes collection of pensions in nearby government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk). In Popasna, the head of the military-civil administration informed the SMM that the town is returning to normality following fighting in February. According to him, electricity and water supplies are reconnected and some public transport links have been re-established. An estimated 70-80% of the pre-conflict population of 22,000 are now resident in the town according to the head. During fighting in February, 15,000 residents left.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements in areas that were non-compliant with the withdrawal lines: (i) in “DPR”-controlled areas, four military-type trucks towing four 152mm howitzers and two main battle tanks (T-72); (ii) in government-controlled areas, six Ukrainian Armed Forces artillery pieces towed by armoured personnel carriers and 21 Ukrainian Armed Forces tanks (T-64) in total, at different locations. The SMM’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) provided imagery of four self-propelled howitzers in “DPR”-controlled Shevchenko (101km south-west of Donetsk). The UAV observed one armoured personnel carrier and four military trucks towing artillery, travelling in the area of government-controlled Volodarske (96km south-west of Donetsk).
Psychologists treating Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers in Chernivtsi Regional Psychiatric Hospital told the SMM that their workload has reduced in comparison with last year. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, they have treated 300 male soldiers for psychological issues, some of whom displayed signs of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The SMM attended a press conference in Kyiv held by three members of the Aidar volunteer battalion during which they claimed that the General Staff of Ukraine is attempting to discredit them. They also claimed that volunteer combatants are often registered with the Ukrainian Armed Forces without receiving salaries. Also in Kyiv, approximately 100 middle-aged persons (men and women) gathered at the city council and demanded that the mayor put a stop to corruption in Kyiv “Metropoliten” (Kyiv Metro) and increase social protection (benefits) for vulnerable inhabitants. The demonstration, watched by ten police officers, ended peacefully. The SMM visited the scene where journalist Olesy Buzina was shot dead in Kyiv on 16 April and saw about 20 journalists and media at the location. The site was cordoned off by police who were conducting an investigation.
The situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv remained calm.
* 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.
- The SMM were initially prevented from accessing a residential street in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) by “DPR”. The SMM called the “DPR” “ministry of defence” and the “DPR” regimental commander and after 20 minutes, access was granted to only four of the SMM team.
- The SMM was stopped on their way to Donetsk airport at a “DPR” checkpoint on Stratonavtov Street. The SMM waited for about ten minutes while the checkpoint guard called his commander. The SMM overheard the guard being told not to let the SMM pass. The SMM withdrew a few hundred metres from the location, but were eventually allowed to pass.
- The SMM was stopped in “Lugansk People’s Republic”-controlled Parkhomenko (42km east of Luhansk city) by members of the “border guard unit”. The commander expressed his displeasure that the SMM had again entered the border zone without permission (see SMM Daily Report 14 April, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/151171). The “commander” told the SMM that if he received an order permitting the SMM freedom of movement he would comply, but until then, the SMM are not welcome.
- On the western entrance to Olhynka (government-controlled, 42km south-south-west of Donetsk) the SMM was prevented from passing a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint. No reason was given. The SMM waited for 10 minutes and was told to leave.