Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 1 May 2015
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, in the environs of Shyrokyne, and – to a lesser extent – in a number of other places. The SMM observed military movement on both sides of the contact line. Azov volunteer battalion members occupied an SMM observation point near Shyrokyne. Numerous peaceful rallies were held throughout the country.
The SMM continued to observe ceasefire violations in and around Donetsk airport, and near Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol). The SMM also noted isolated violations in a number of other locations. Just outside government-controlled Mykolaivka (41km south of Donetsk), the SMM saw three – what it assessed to be – outgoing tank rounds fired from a location approximately 2km to the north. An incoming round followed, impacting approximately 400m north of the SMM’s position. The SMM also heard an artillery round impact 10km to the north of its position in “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Molodizhne (62km west of Luhansk).
On 1 May approximately seven members of the Azov volunteer battalion took over an SMM observation point 4km north-west of Shyrokyne. Despite being informed that the place was regularly used by the SMM and despite subsequent intervention on the part of Ukrainian Armed Forces officers from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), the members of the battalion refused to vacate the position.
On 29 April, in Donetsk city, a staff member of a centre for internally displaced persons (IDP) told the SMM that the centre housed 27 men, 39 women and 18 children. Neither the centre nor its residents – all from other parts of the city, where they had lost their homes due to shelling – received any financial support from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), he said. They relied instead on the Donetsk Protestant Church and a local non-governmental organization for medicine and food.
On 30 April, in “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Kolos (48km south-south-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard artillery and tank fire from near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Luch (54km south-south-west of Luhansk). Local residents told the SMM that an “LPR” military training ground was situated there, and that they had been informed on local radio of ongoing exercises.
On 29 April, in “LPR”-controlled Sverdlovsk (61km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM met a representative of a Russian-language regional newspaper. He said the “LPR” paid 16 per cent of the paper’s running costs. He said editorial independence had not suffered as a result.
On 1 May the SMM observed approximately 30 motorcyclists – some wearing vests with Night Wolves symbols – entering Luhansk city. They carried banners and flags commemorating the end of World War II.
On 1 May the SMM observed approximately 150 people of mixed age and gender attending a peaceful rally in government-controlled Starobilsk (84km north-west of Luhansk). Organized by a group of civil society organizations, the rally aimed at encouraging reforms and a united Ukraine. Ten to 15 police officers were on duty.
At two “DPR” heavy-weapons holding areas, the SMM noted all weapons previously recorded were in situ. At a third site, however, the SMM found that eight of the 12 previously recorded howitzers were missing. At one Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy-weapons holding area, personnel denied access to the SMM.* At another Ukrainian Armed Forces site, the SMM observed that all weapons previously recorded were in situ. At a third Ukrainian Armed Forces site, four 152mm artillery pieces were missing, which, according to personnel on duty there, were currently being used in training exercises. Four of 18 previously recorded 152mm artillery pieces were missing from another Ukrainian Armed Forces site – said by personnel on duty there to have been moved for training purposes – and at another site, one of four previously recorded Grad multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) was missing, again, being used for training purposes, according to personnel on duty.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons in areas non-compliant with the withdrawal lines: (i) in government-controlled areas, an 82mm mortar and an Uragan MLRS on 30 April; and, (ii) in “LPR”-controlled territory, a T-72 tank on 30 April, and six howitzers (120 and 122mm) on 1 May.
On 1 May, at a press conference attended by the SMM in Kharkiv, a senior State Security of Ukraine (SBU) officer said that 24 “subversives” had been detained recently, and eight terrorist attacks foiled. He specified that five suspects had been detained in relation to explosions in Kharkiv that took place on 29 November. He also said that on 28 April a weapons cache – the contents of which had included grenade launchers, assault rifles, and plastic explosives – had been seized in Kharkiv, and 18kg of plastic explosive had been seized in Valky (47km south-west of Kharkiv).
On 29 April a representative of the Independent Media Trade Union told the SMM in Kyiv that the killing of journalist Oles Buzyna on 16 April (see Daily Report, 17 April, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/151791) was not connected with his journalistic activities. The interlocutor said members of her organisation – 1,500 journalists throughout Ukraine – did not feel particularly unsafe because of the incident. She instead raised a number of concerns, including opaqueness surrounding media ownership, and financial restraints impacting the industry generally and journalists personally.
On 1 May the SMM observed a number of International Labour Day rallies in Kyiv. Four hundred mostly elderly men attended a Communist Party-organized rally. Approximately 250 police and 80 National Guard soldiers provided security. The participants dispersed peacefully. At another rally 100 young people of mixed gender – carrying anarchist flags and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) banners. Eighty police oversaw what was a peaceful event. Approximately 60 people – most of whom were young men – attended an anti-capitalist rally in Kyiv on 1 May. Unaffiliated to the Communist Party, according to one participant, the rally remained peaceful, with approximately 200 police present.
On 1 May the SMM observed a rally of approximately 35 mostly elderly male and female Labour Party and Communist Party members in Kharkiv. Despite verbal exchanges with 25 young pro-Maidan activists, the rally – overseen by 100 police – remained peaceful. At another location in the city, approximately 40 pro-Ukrainian activists – mostly younger men and women – peacefully gathered in anticipation of a Communist Party rally which never materialised.
On 1 May the SMM observed a rally organized by the Communist Party in Dnepropetrovsk city. Approximately 100 people – the majority of whom were older men – attended. Overseen by an even greater number of police, the rally passed off peacefully. Another smaller trade union-organized rally was also held in the city, at which eight women and 16 men – mostly elderly – carried banners, some with Batkivshchyna Party and Svoboda Party symbols and others calling for increased salaries, and free education and healthcare. Around 70 SBU officers were present. The marchers dispersed peacefully.
On 29 April the SMM observed a rally of approximately 50 Pravyy Sektor (Right Sector) members, all dressed in camouflage uniforms, with 30 of them wearing balaclavas. Standing outside the Kherson regional police headquarters, they demanded the dismissal of four police officers, whom they claimed were “separatists”. Eight uniformed police officers oversaw the event, which passed off peacefully.
On 1 May in Odessa, the SMM observed an outdoor briefing for approximately 3,000 police, riot police, National Guard, and members of Ministry of Internal Affairs special operations units. Five armoured personnel carriers were present, some with mounted machine guns. Speaking afterwards at a press conference, the regional chief-of-police said 2,600 police and 500 National Guard would patrol in the city on 2 May, in anticipation of possible violence on the first anniversary of events in Odessa. Later the SMM observed approximately 50 people – most of whom were elderly men – participate in a peaceful Communist Party-organized International Labour Day rally, which was overseen by 20 armed police officers. Elsewhere in the city, 50 to 60 people – mostly elderly – peacefully marked International Labour Day, carrying red flags in the presence of approximately 80 police officers.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi 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 a lack of information on the whereabouts of landmines.
The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere.
- On 30 May The SMM was again (see Daily Report, 30 April, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/154661) stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint outside government-controlled Mykolaivka (41km south of Donetsk), and prevented from entering the village. Personnel explained that “subversive groups” were operating in the area, and landmines had possibly been laid by them.
- “DPR” members prevented the SMM from passing through a checkpoint in Donetsk city on 1 May, saying passage was only possible if a “DPR” member joined the SMM in the SMM vehicle.
- In “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (55km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was forced to accept a “DPR” “escort” on 1 May, from a checkpoint on the outskirts of the town to the centre. The checkpoint “commander” told the SMM this constituted common practice in the area given the insecurity there.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers denied the SMM access to a Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding area. They said that their commander, who was absent, needed to grant permission.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.