Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 19 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”. The SMM, based on its monitoring – which was restricted by third parties and by security considerations* – observed ongoing fighting in and around Donetsk airport, with fewer incidents involving the use of heavy weapons than in previous days. After days of calm, fighting took place in and around Shyrokyne, forcing the SMM to temporarily withdraw. The SMM observed military movements on both sides of the contact line. The SMM re-visited heavy weapons holding areas.
The SMM temporarily withdrew from Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol, 102km south of Donetsk) following skirmishes involving small-arms and machine-gun fire and the use of mortars (on both sides) on 18 April at which point the SMM-brokered ceasefire had been holding for 67 hours. On 19 April, the SMM at observation posts 1.5km and 5km west of Shyrokyne heard small arms fire being exchanged and mortar impacts on the outskirts of Shyrokyne. Fighting continued in and around Donetsk airport and in the nearby government-controlled villages of Opytne and Pisky (between 15-20km north-west of Donetsk city). The SMM, from an observation point at Donetsk railway station, observed a total of 311 incidents involving the use of heavy weapons over two days on 18 and 19 April, representing a significant reduction compared with previous days.
The SMM was told by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) of an 18 April shelling when eight Grad rockets hit the outskirts of government-controlled Avdiivka (13km north-west of Donetsk city centre). According to JCCC officers (from both Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces) and to local residents, three rockets hit the residential area of Avdiivka old town and five landed in fields. The SMM went to the location with Ukrainian Armed Forces JCCC representatives. The SMM saw three impacts in the area, and related damage to civilian property. The SMM conducted crater analysis and examined rocket fragments and assessed the impacts to have been caused by Grad rockets incoming from areas to the east and south-east. The owners of two damaged houses said the explosions occurred on 18 April around 18:00hrs and caused no injuries.
Interlocutors from the JCCC told the SMM that the two bodies seen by the SMM at Donetsk airport (see SMM Daily Report, 17 April) were taken to a morgue in Donetsk on 17 April by “DPR” members. One of the corpses is assumed to be a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier, while the other one is believed to be a “DPR” member.
During its overnight observation in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) from 17-18 April the SMM did not register any ceasefire violations in or around the village (see SMM Spot Report, 18 April). On the morning of the 18 April, the SMM heard small-arms fire from south of its position, and observed impacts from small-arms fire approximately 100 metres from its location. The SMM also heard incoming and outgoing small-arms fire, north and north-west of its position. Between 14:22 and 14:26hrs the SMM heard three outgoing 82mm mortar rounds 1.5 kilometre south-west of its position, and at 14:28hrs, two incoming 82mm mortar rounds one kilometre south-east of its position. From 14:30-14:35hrs the SMM heard an exchange of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire 500 metres south-south-west of its position and a grenade explosion, 150 metres from its position. The SMM left the village at 14:35hrs due to the deteriorating security situation and upon instructions from the “DPR”.
Following the SMM pull-out from Shyrokyne, from 14:30 to 17:25hrs the SMM heard and witnessed 215 outgoing mortar (82mm calibre) from south-east of their location on the eastern outskirts of government-controlled Berdianske (1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 20km east of Mariupol) fired in the direction of Shyrokyne. During this period, the SMM also heard small-arms and machine-gun fire north and north-east of its position.
The SMM were shown a Ukrainian Armed Forces draft disengagement plan for Shyrokyne on 19 April. The plan foresees the withdrawal of armed formations from the village as proposed by the SMM Deputy Chief Monitor (DCM) on 9 April. It was shared with the Russian Federation Armed Forces General at the JCCC and requires approval from Kyiv authorities, and consultation with “DPR”. Also on 19 April, the SMM assisted in the recovery of the corpse of a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier from the west of the village.
In government-controlled Kramatorsk (80km north of Donetsk) on 17 April a crowd of 500 persons pulled a statue of Lenin to the ground when the SMM was present. As of 19 April the statue had been removed from the square. The SMM cannot confirm where it has been taken to. The SMM spoke to members of the civil society organization Vilna Hata (“Free home”) after the event who said that the toppling of the statue was not pre-planned, but had taken place spontaneously during an event called “Kramatorsk is Ukraine”. Security forces, including police and National Guard (numbering upwards of 50), did not intervene during the incident.
In Luhansk region, the SMM heard multiple explosions in government-controlled Shchastya (23km north of Luhansk) on 18 April.
On 19 April, the SMM saw damage caused by a Grad missile strike said, by members of the Aidar volunteer battalion, to have taken place on 18 April at 15:55hrs in the government-controlled village of Valiuske (20km north east of Luhansk). One missile destroyed a house and two others impacted in close proximity to two other homes. A fourth missile landed outside the village. No one was injured. Members of the Aidar volunteer battalion, who requested the SMM visit the scene, showed supposed remnants of the alleged Grad missile.
On 18 April, the SMM observed that military exercises continued in the vicinity of “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (23km south-south-west of Luhansk) as previously reported. (See SMM Daily Report, 17 April). In particular, SMM observed 12 tanks of an unknown type.
The SMM returned to six “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas. At three of the six sites the SMM was able to confirm that all weapons previously recorded by the SMM were in situ. At one site the number of heavy weapons corresponded to the number and type recorded by the SMM on their previous visit, though the SMM was prevented from checking the serial numbers on weaponry by “DPR” members*. At two other sites none of the weapons previously recorded at the locations by the SMM were present. “DPR” members at one of these sites (where all four previously recorded Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS Grad) were missing) said that the weapons were taken away in preparation for a Victory Day parade on 9 May. At another site, both artillery pieces previously recorded were missing, and there were no “DPR” members present.
The SMM re-visited a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) weapons holding area noting that weapons previously observed were in situ. At another location, the SMM was informed by an interlocutor that weapons were removed in previous days. However, the SMM observed four heavy artillery pieces at the facility (2A65 MSTA-B towed artillery). An “LPR” member at the location told the SMM that some weapons were moved for use in an upcoming Victory Day parade on 9 May and that others are undergoing maintenance. The SMM went to a location (that does not correspond with Minsk withdrawal lines) where the “LPR” told the SMM they have redeployed heavy weapons for an upcoming Victory Day parade on 9 May. The SMM observed the following: four main battle tanks (MBTs - T-64 K), four infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-1s), and seven tracked crew transport vehicle (MTLB), four with mounted anti-aircraft STRELA-10 systems. Whilst at the location, the SMM observed the following heavy weapons enter the site: four MLRS (BM-2 Grad), four self-propelled howitzers (2SI Gvozdika 122mm), and four towed howitzers (2A65 “MSTA-B” 152mm).
In his letter of 10 April to the signatories of the Minsk Package, the SMM Chief Monitor expressed his concern about reports that heavy weapons may be redeployed to proscribed areas for exercises or military parades. He reminded all sides that firing of any weapon, as well as deployment of any heavy weapon, in proscribed areas constitutes a violation of the Minsk agreements, and stated that the SMM will continue to report them as such.
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed and in addition to above, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements. In government-controlled areas the SMM saw the following; a military convoy of two BTR-80s carrying armed personnel, two light military trucks (one carrying armed personnel; one Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicle (A/IFV) (BMP-2) on a trailer travelling west, away from the contact line; one A/IFV (BMP-2), three APC (BTR-70); one MBT T-64 on a trailer and five T-64 tanks.
The SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) monitored both sides of the contact line east of Mariupol and saw three MBTs and destroyed houses in the vicinity of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) on the night of 17-18 April.
The deputy mayor of Berdiansk (230km south-east of Dnepropetrovsk, 68km west of Mariupol) told the SMM that there were over 14,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the town. Around 200 IDPs continue to arrive weekly, she told the SMM, with the majority moving onward, as they are concerned by the town’s proximity to hostilities in Shyrokyne, which is 85km away.
The head of the district administration of Novoselytsya (30km south-east of Chernivtsi) told the SMM that the district is experiencing problems with the fourth wave of mobilization as the percentage of those conscribed who are subsequently mobilized is low (33%, which according to the Military Commissioner of Chernivtsi is the lowest in the region).
On 17 April, the SMM monitored a protest in Lviv organized by the non-governmental Organisation of Veterans of Ukraine, against the rise in utility prices. Approximately 60 elderly protesters (about half men, and half women) took part and claimed the price rise affected vulnerable groups in particular. They called on the Government to protect them. The protest was watched by 13 police officers (one of whom was female).
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Odessa, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk 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.
SMM was prevented from checking the serial numbers on heavy weaponry by “DPR” members.
4km from the “LPR”-controlled Izvaryne border crossing point (53km east of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped at a mobile “border guard” checkpoint on 18 April. The checkpoint “commander” stated that the SMM was not permitted to visit the Izvaryne border crossing point or enter the border zone (an area that extends 15km inside “LPR”-controlled territory). A “police” officer from “LPR”-controlled Krasnodon (43km south-east of Luhansk) arrived at the checkpoint and offered to escort the SMM to the border crossing point. The checkpoint commander had a private conversation (out of earshot of the SMM) with the police officer and following this exchange, the latter informed the SMM that they could not visit the crossing point. The SMM departed the area.
On 19 April, the SMM was prevented from passing a checkpoint south of government-controlled Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk). On approach to the checkpoint a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier fired a single shot into the air signaling the SMM to stop their vehicle. The commander explained that it is a “zero-access” checkpoint and that the SMM could not pass.
On 18 April, the SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near government-controlled Makarove (19km north-east of Luhansk). The SMM was asked if there were any Russian nationals amongst them. Checkpoint personnel took the names of the patrol members, their ID numbers, and vehicle registration plates. The SMM were stopped for 20 minutes before being allowed to proceed.
On 18 April, the SMM was stopped twice at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) and ordered - in an aggressive manner - to open the trunks for inspection. The SMM were stopped for 5-10 minutes before being allowed to proceed.
The SMM was refused passage through a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Hranitne (47km north-east of Mariupol) on 19 April. The checkpoint commander refused to let SMM pass as they refused to disclose their citizenship. Despite intervention from the JCCC in Volnovakha, the commander would not grant SMM passage. The SMM left the area.
For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the linked attachment.