Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 26 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”. Its monitoring was restricted by third parties and security considerations*. The SMM continued to observe ceasefire violations in and around the wider area of Donetsk airport and Avdiivka, while in Shyrokyne the SMM observed the most intense fighting since February 2015.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.
For a complete breakdown of ceasefire violations, please see the attached table or visit www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/153921
The SMM continued to observe ceasefire violations in and around the wider area of Donetsk airport as well as Avdiivka, including the use of 120mm mortars and artillery. The situation remained volatile in Shyrokyne, where numerous ceasefire violations were registered by the SMM as the situation deteriorated further on 26 April. In the Luhansk region the situation remained calm, with a small number of ceasefire violations observed by the SMM.
On 25 April the SMM visited Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol, 102km south-east of Donetsk) observing fresh damage to infrastructure. The SMM also tried to proceed to the eastern part of the village but was denied access by “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) members. The fighting continued throughout the presence of the SMM. While in the village, the SMM heard outgoing and incoming fire for an extended period, most of which was outgoing small arms and 82mm mortar fire and saw smoke rising above the southern part of the village. On 26 April the SMM observed what it assessed to be the most intense shelling in Shyrokyne since fighting began in the area in mid-February 2015 (see SMM Spot Report 26 April, Intense fighting in Shyrokyne and amassing of forces, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/153501).
The SMM was informed by the “Anti-terrorism Operation” (“ATO”) spokesperson that a soldier of the Donbas volunteer battalion was killed and two others wounded by mortar shrapnel in the morning of 25 April near the village of Shyrokyne.
On 26 April the SMM met in Mariupol with the press officer of the Azov volunteer battalion in order to follow-up on a video allegedly showing the crucifixion and burning alive of a “DPR” member by Azov battalion members some days ago. According to the press officer, all field commanders had watched the video and had not recognized any people shown in the video. The press officer ruled out that the people shown in the video belong to his battalion. He said that Azov fighters would neither wear the camouflage nor carry the type of weapons displayed in the video. The SMM will follow up on this issue.
On 26 April, while at an observation point on the eastern outskirts of Berdianske (1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 19km east of Mariupol, government-controlled) the SMM observed a Ukrainian Armed Forces military truck towing an ambulance and traveling from east to west. The soldiers stopped and asked the SMM to look at the ambulance, which according to them was hit the same morning in Shyrokyne, by shrapnel from exploding self-propelled howitzer shells, incoming from a “DPR”-controlled area. The SMM could observe impacts of unidentified shell fragments on the front glass, roof and outer sidewalls of the ambulance.
The SMM visited Novoazovsk (“DPR”-controlled, 45km east of Mariupol), where it spoke to the mayor of Shyrokyne about food, water and medicine supplies for people remaining in Shyrokyne. According to the mayor, 39 people remained in the village under dire living conditions, often without food or water. Some internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the village, presently living in Mariupol, needed their documents to be collected from the damaged school and medical centre in Shyrokyne.
In Hranitne, (government-controlled, 59km south of Donetsk), a location that the SMM had not been allowed to visit since 27 February 2015, a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander offered to escort the SMM to the site of recent shelling. He also advised the SMM not to proceed to the centre of the village out of security concerns.* The SMM visited an area in the south of the village, where soldiers reported that shelling had taken place at 01:00hrs on 25 April. They reported that the line of contact is the river and that the SMM could not access* the north of the village, due to its proximity to the line. The SMM met three civilians who confirmed the time of the shelling and reported that it was the first time they were hit by Grad rockets. The SMM observed five craters consistent with Grad shelling and some damaged houses. The SMM could not ascertain from which direction the Grad had been fired. The civilians told the SMM that shelling continued every day and that about 30 people still lived in the southern part of the village, with around 500-550 people in total remaining in the entire village.
In Nova Marivka (“DPR”-controlled, 65km south of Donetsk) a “DPR” servicewoman stated that the village had been shelled in the afternoon of 24 April and at 01:00hrs on the following night. No casualties were reported to the SMM. The SMM conducted crater analysis of 12 craters and assessed them as consistent with artillery explosions. In the craters, the SMM found fresh shrapnel consistent with artillery shells, likely to be 152mm, due to the size and the depth of the craters. The SMM measured 9 craters and assessed the direction of fire was from a south-south-westerly direction.
On 26 April the SMM visited the headquarters of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk). The SMM enquired about the mortar incident in Avdiivka that had occurred on 23 April (see SMM Daily Report 23 April, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/153381). The SMM had reported that the incident had been logged by the JCCC in Avdiivka (see SMM Daily Report 24 April, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/153496) and sent to the JCCC HQ. However, this incident appeared not to have been recorded in the JCCC HQ incident logs.
On 25 April the SMM visited the last government-controlled checkpoint in Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) adjacent to “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Kalynove (58km west of Luhansk). At the checkpoint, two Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel showed the SMM the remnants of a vehicle that they said had been destroyed several days ago. According to the interlocutors, as the car approached the checkpoint from the “LPR” side, they had to open fire on the vehicle to stop it, causing its explosion that killed the driver. As it exploded, it appeared that the vehicle was full of explosives. After this incident, the Ukrainian Armed Forces had destroyed the bridge between Troitske and Kalynove and mined the territory nearby. Some parts of the bridge are still passable for foot traffic.
On 26 April, at an “LPR”-controlled check-point at the bridge located near government controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), the SMM observed a line of six newly placed anti-tank mines. The “LPR” armed members at the checkpoint stated that the mines had been positioned four to five days earlier.
On 25 and 26 April the SMM observed Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel fortifying positions at a number of locations. In particular, the SMM observed ditches, trenches and firing positions being constructed in areas close to government-controlled Hrechyshkyne (45km north-west of Luhansk), government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk) and government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk).
In government-controlled Toshkivka, the SMM spoke to ten local interlocutors (male and female, aged from 25 to 60 years) who complained that they were unable to start their seasonal field work due to the presence of UXOs and mine fields. While in the village the SMM was stopped by a group of 11 women (aged between 30 and 55 years) who informed the SMM that they had been blocking Ukrainian Armed Forces military engineering works for three days in a row, and that they would not stop protesting until the military agree to move the fortification further from the village. The interlocutors accompanied the SMM to the location where new fortifications have been recently constructed - roughly 100m from the residential area of the village- and expressed concern that in case of attack, not only the lives of villagers might be put at risk, but also crucial infrastructure - electrical sub-plant, pumping station, and sewage treatment plant -supporting four villages in the area, might be damaged.
On 26 April the SMM observed that military exercises were still ongoing in the vicinity of “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (27km south-west of Luhansk) (see SMM Daily Reports 17, 19 April). In “LPR”-controlled Mala Yurivka (32km south-west of Luhansk), local villagers confirmed that approximately 100 “LPR” armed members had recently conducted training exercises and left the area one week ago. In “LPR”-controlled Illiriia (30km south-west of Luhansk), local residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the exercises, in particular they complained about the behaviour of intoxicated “LPR” members.
On 25 April, the SMM visited the damaged bridge located near government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) and spoke to the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint commander who said that checkpoint personnel are collecting the passports of those civilians who fail to show the required documentation to cross the bridge, and upon their return the passports are given back without further actions. This practice was witnessed by the SMM. The SMM observed that three “LPR” members crossed the bridge, entered into what is considered to be government-controlled territory (north of the river) and stayed there for a limited period of time.
On 25 April the SMM re-visited two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas, which comply with the respective withdrawal lines. At one site, the SMM found all weapons as previously recorded. At another site, the SMM did not find six of the 10 previously registered heavy weapons. The SMM was told that the missing pieces had been removed for training purposes. On 26 April the SMM was granted access to one Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapon holding area for the first time. The site was compliant with the withdrawal lines. The SMM inspected each piece of heavy weaponry on site, noting their serial numbers. The SMM revisited three other Ukrainian Armed Forces weapons holding areas and observed that some of the heavy weapons previously recorded were not present. One site was nearly completely abandoned. Nine out of ten Grad Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) weapons systems previously recorded were missing. The SMM was told by the soldier guarding the piece left behind, that the others had been withdrawn further away from the contact line. Eight out of eighteen towed 152mm Howitzers previously recorded on that site were absent, and three of those still present had their serial number tags removed, so that the SMM could only identify seven pieces previously recorded. At another site, four towed 152mm Howitzers were missing, declared by the military personnel present to be removed for training. On 25 April the SMM visited an “LPR” site in Luhansk city where equipment for a 9 May Victory Day parade is being stored.
The SMM continued to observe movement of military hardware. In particular, in government-controlled areas, the SMM observed: near Stepne (32km south-south-west of Donetsk, government-controlled), a stationary Main Battle Tanks partially hidden in the tree line; in the area of government-controlled Hirske (62km north-west of Luhansk) two MBTs. In “DPR”-controlled areas, the SMM observed: in Donetsk city, fifteen stationary MBTs, most of them assessed to be T-64 type. Later on the same day the SMM saw two stationary T-72 tanks at the same location. The SMM attempted to proceed inside the compound through the gate but was prevented by uniformed armed men guarding the site.* In the area of Michurine (“DPR”-controlled, 63km south of Donetsk), the SMM observed two MBTs.
On 25 April the SMM Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) observed a high concentration of armoured vehicles including Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) and MBTs, as well as troops on the “DPR” side of the contact line in an area south-east of Donetsk city. For example, at least 55 IFV, 10 MBT, 2 240mm Mortars and up to 15 trucks were spotted in the area of Rozdolne (47km south-east of Donestk city, “DPR”-controlled). On 26 April, in the area north of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol), a similar buildup of forces had been spotted with for example six MBTs, one armored personnel carrier (APC) , six IFV , two trucks and about 100 soldiers in the area of “DPR”-controlled Kulykove (23km north-east of Mariupol).
In Kitsman (30km north-west of Chernivtsi), representatives of the department for social protection of Kitsman district administration told the SMM that in the district there were 108 registered IDPs. Most of the IDPs are hosted by family members or friends. About half of the employable adult IDPs are actively seeking employment or additional education, but only a few of them have actually found employment. The interlocutors also said that obtaining permits to cross the contact line between government-controlled areas and areas controlled by the “DPR” and the “LPR” is often problematic for IDPs now living in the west of Ukraine who need to go back to their homes to collect belongings and documents.
On 24 April the SMM attended an event organized by the Armenian community in Lviv. The celebration held in the Armenian Church gathered some 300 people, mainly Armenians, but also representatives of local authorities and other ethnic and religious minorities. During the Holy Mass leaflets and booklets on the centenary of events of 1915 were handed out. Brief speeches were given by the chairman of Lviv regional council, the mayor and a priest.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, 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.
- At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint located 3km south of Myronivskyi, (government-controlled, 60km north-east of Donetsk) on 25 April, the commander said that the road had been closed due to a burst gas pipeline. He said that all vehicles were stopped and diverted. The SMM was unable to verify the alleged gas pipeline problem and opted for the only other route to Myronivskyi, a secondary road in the area. However, the SMM was stopped at another Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, where the commander stated that the SMM was not allowed to use this secondary road.
- On 25 April the SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint close to Volnovakha (government-controlled, 50km south-south-west of Donetsk). The checkpoint personnel searched the trunks of the SMM vehicles and enquired about the names and citizenships of the monitors. After 25 minutes the SMM was allowed to proceed.
- On 25 April, while on the road leading to Hranitne (government-controlled, 47km north-east of Mariupol) a few kilometers after Myrne (38km north-east of Mariupol, 62km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM was stopped for ten minutes by a mobile Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint and asked to disclose their citizenships to be allowed to proceed. The soldiers also asked the monitors to show a special permit from their commander in Volnovakha to access the zone. The soldiers took pictures of the monitors’ IDs and vehicle registration plates and allowed the SMM to proceed. After a few kilometers, at the factory before the entrance of the village, a second mobile checkpoint stopped the SMM for a few minutes, and asked about the aim of the visit and again, citizenships.
-On 26 April the SMM was stopped at a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint, never encountered before, on Kyivskyi Avenue, 7km north-west of Donetsk city-centre, and not allowed to proceed any further, citing security reasons and shelling from the direction of Avdiivka.
-On 26 April, at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near Kurakhove (government-controlled, 37km west of Donetsk), the SMM was asked to submit a written request in order for the MH-17 recovery truck to be allowed to pass. The SMM explained that passes for MH-17 recovery trucks have been approved previously in accordance with all requirements. The SMM and the MH-17 recovery truck were allowed to pass after approximately 20 minutes.
-On 26 April the SMM was stopped for five minutes and the SMM’s vehicles were searched at a “DPR” check-point on road H15, located 15km north-west of Donetsk city centre.
-On 26 April at 09:53hrs, at the government-controlled checkpoint in Makarove (19km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM was stopped by Ukrainian border guard personnel and asked for the citizenships of the patrol members. The border guards explained that they have strict orders to record all SMM vehicles and to determine the nationalities of the SMM. After approximately nine minutes (at 10:02hrs) the SMM was allowed to pass and continue to its destination.