Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 7 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 and Shyrokyne. The SMM observed the presence of heavy weapons on both sides of the contact line, noting in particular a large concentration of tanks in a “DPR”-controlled area north-east of Mariupol.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.
Fighting continued to rage in and around the destroyed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport, with the SMM during the reporting period recording hundreds of explosions. At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation post at “DPR”-controlled Donetsk Railway Station (8km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM, between 13:25 and 18:00hrs, observed a total of 573 explosions. Members of the JCCC at the observation post told the SMM that there had been two unsuccessful attempts to introduce local ceasefires at 9:00 and 9:30hrs. The SMM observed that the second attempt had lasted over an hour. The SMM also accessed “DPR”-controlled Spartak (8km north of Donetsk) and the airport, noting sporadic low-level incoming mortar rounds.
From an observation point on the eastern outskirts of government-controlled Berdianske (1.5km west of Shyrokyne; 18.5km east of Mariupol), the SMM, from 17:24 to 17:34hrs, heard more than a hundred detonations, assessed to have been incoming fire from Grad multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) located approximately 6km north-north-east of its position.
An SMM Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) spotted three tanks in government-controlled territory and 30 tanks in “DPR”-controlled territory, all in or around villages close to the line of contact. Thirteen of these tanks were seen in or around “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (57km south of Donetsk). In addition, two mobile 122mm Grad 9P132 rocket launchers were observed 5km west of “DPR”-controlled Novoazovsk (43km east of Mariupol).
On the western outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Bezimenne (30km east of Mariupol), the SMM observed eight fresh artillery craters. Continuing east – on its way to the “DPR”-controlled international border crossing point on the Russian Federation-Ukraine border (52km east of Mariupol) – the SMM entered “DPR”-controlled Novoazovsk, where it visited the local market, noting that prices were generally double those in Mariupol.
The SMM observed defensive fortifications being constructed on both sides of the contact line in areas around “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (55km north-west of Donetsk) and government-controlled Luhanske, 16km north-west of Debaltseve.
In government-controlled Artemivsk (66km north of Donetsk), the director of the local Unemployment Office told the SMM that 50 mid-sized companies had left the town since the start of the conflict. Although larger industrial companies have remained, they have had to cut back on production and working hours. Many companies, he said, have had trouble with distribution and acquisition of raw materials, particularly since the fall of Debaltseve, a major transport hub.
In “DPR”-controlled Hrozne (49km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM on 6 May met the family of a 15-year-old boy who had died in hospital a few days previously, according to local residents the SMM had spoken to before. The family told the SMM that the boy, while tending livestock, had stepped on a landmine. They added that others had previously been injured from landmines around the village.
On 6 May, while in an area south of Debaltseve, the SMM observed for the first time a shooting range which covers approximately 16 sq. km and is being used, according to the “DPR” “commander” there, to test anti-tank weapons, mortars, and small fire arms. The SMM observed an ongoing exercise with “DPR” armoured personnel vehicles and armed persons. There was also a 100mm anti-tank weapon at the location as well as three support trucks.
In government-controlled Starobilsk (84km north-west of Luhansk), a Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) commander told the SMM that there had been a marked increase in the number of people seeking passes to cross the contact line. He said currently there were 1,000 applications a day – up from 600 – and that, as of 7 May, 28,000 passes had been issued.
The SMM re-visited one “DPR” and three Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, observing that the weapons previously recorded were in situ, and that their locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines. In addition, the SMM visited for the first time another Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding area, noting the presence of four 122mm self-propelled artillery pieces. At another two Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, personnel there refused to allow the SMM to inspect the facilities, at one site, saying no orders had been given to allow such an inspection, and at the other, saying the commander was unavailable to authorize SMM entry.
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements/presence in areas that were non-compliant with the withdrawal lines: (i) in “DPR”-controlled areas, 31 tanks, one 100mm anti-tank cannon, and two Grad MLRS; and, (ii) in government-controlled territory, nine tanks.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv 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.
- The “DPR” deputy “commandant” in Debaltseve told the SMM that it was not permitted to travel to “DPR”-controlled Lohvynove (8.5km north-west of Debaltseve), saying live-fire exercises were ongoing there
- At a checkpoint close to government-controlled Lebedynske (16km east-north-east of Mariupol), members of the Dnepro-1 volunteer battalion incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard kept the SMM waiting for an hour.