Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 18 May 2015
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 observed ceasefire violations in and around Donetsk airport, though the fighting continued at a relatively low level. Southern Donetsk region and Luhansk region remained calm. The SMM observed earlier-recorded heavy weapons at two “DPR”-controlled holding areas to be in situ.
The SMM observed continued violations of ceasefire in and around Donetsk airport (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 12km north-west of Donetsk city centre), although at a relatively low level of intensity. Over an almost 10-hour period from 7:36 to 17:30hrs, the SMM at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination observation point at Donetsk central railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre) heard a total of 109 explosions caused by incoming and outgoing artillery and mortar fire, as well as SALW fire including heavy machine gun bursts. The SMM concluded that the explosions occurred at locations to the west, north-west and north of its position and at distances ranging between 1.5 and 7km from its position. Locations in the areas where the SMM concluded that the explosions had occurred included in or around government-controlled Pisky to the west, “DPR”-controlled Donetsk airport to the north, and government-controlled Opytne farther north.
Further, the SMM found the security situation to be calm and observed no ceasefire violations around the “DPR”-controlled towns of Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) and Makiivka (13km east-north-east of Donetsk). Also, the SMM observed that the security situation in the village of Shyrokyne was relatively calm (20km east of Mariupol) – as it was for the previous three days – as monitored by the SMM at observation points on the eastern outskirts of Berdianske (government-controlled, 1.5km west of Shyrokyne) and in Sopyne (government-controlled, 3.5km west of Shyrokyne). The SMM did hear 21 unidentified explosions north of its position in a government-controlled area 4.5km west of Shyrokyne.
A Ukrainian Armed Forces representative to the JCCC in Avdiivka (government-controlled, 15km north-north-west of Donetsk) told the SMM on 17 May that they had received a report from an observation point that two phosphorous mortar grenades had allegedly exploded in Pisky (government-controlled, 10km north-west of Donetsk city centre). The SMM, because of insecurity in the area at the time, was not immediately able to follow up on this report.
The SMM observed that the overall security situation in Luhansk region remained calm.
The SMM observed eight small, individual military-type tents up next to the road near the Luhansk-Donetsk region administrative boundary line and near a known “DPR” military training site.
The SMM revisited two “DPR”-controlled heavy weapons holding areas east and south-east of Donetsk City and found all earlier-recorded weapons to be in situ.
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons has been completed, the SMM observed the following weapons movements/presence in areas that are in violation of the Minsk withdrawal lines. The SMM observed three stationary unmarked main battle tanks (T-64 MBTs) in the centre of Shyrokyne. The SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) observed a total of seven tanks (type unknown) in a “DPR”-controlled area, approximately 50km north-east of Mariupol. The SMM UAV also observed one infantry fighting vehicle, two military-type trucks and people in military uniforms in the same area.
The SMM attended a government press conference in Kyiv concerning the reported recent capture of two allegedly Russian soldiers around the town of Shchastya (government-controlled, 20km north of Luhansk). High-ranking military participants in the press conference included the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They said that the soldiers were being treated at Kyiv Central Clinical Hospital for injuries suffered during the fighting and that they would be charged with terrorism.
The SMM observed events commemorating the anniversary of the 18 May 1944 Soviet deportation of Crimean Tatars and protesting against the events involving the Russian Federation and Crimea. In Kyiv, the SMM followed an event that included the participation of the Ukrainian President and Prime Minister as well as the Turkish Foreign Minister and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. Other events included a 17 May gathering in Kharkiv of some 100 people, both men and women and of varying ages, organized by Euromaidan activists and with the participation of the local Tatar community – as well as the presence of approximately 30 police officers. The SMM also monitored a similar commemorative event in Dnepropetrovsk attended by a small group of 20 people, including the leader of the local Tatar community and members of the Muslim community.
The SMM monitored a court hearing in Poltava (128km south-west of Kharkiv) for former Kharkiv mayor Hennadiy Kernes, who is facing criminal charges related to the detention and mistreatment of two Euromaidan activists in January 2014 – specifically the three charges of deprivation of freedom/kidnapping, making death threats, and torture. Members of a group of some 30 young, pro-unity protesters, waving Ukrainian and Right Sector flags and Fatherland and Svoboda party flags, threw eggs at one of his lawyers and also tried to force their way into the courthouse. Police eventually escorted Kernes away from the courthouse and the area, reportedly for his own safety as the focus of the protest, and the court rescheduled the hearing. Meanwhile in Kharkiv, the SMM observed the presence of some 200 riot police around Liberty Square to guard against any unrest in the wake of a court ruling there banning a proposed rally in support of the former mayor.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Odessa, Kherson, Lviv, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk.
* 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 ceasefire does not hold everywhere.
- The SMM was stopped for 10 minutes at a government-controlled checkpoint at the northern entrance to Avdiivka (government-controlled, 15km north-north-west of Donetsk) and told to wait for a JCCC representative to arrive before being allowed to proceed with the JCCC escort. The Ukrainian Armed Forces JCCC representative explained the restriction by citing the presence of “DPR” reconnaissance groups in the area.
- The SMM patrolled unescorted to Novoazovsk (“DPR”-controlled, 40km east of Mariupol) though, when at one point the SMM observed a “DPR” 82mm mortar position, an armed “DPR” member told the SMM to leave the area.
- The SMM was stopped at government checkpoint CP10 at the western entrance to Sartana (government-controlled, 16km north-east of Mariupol) and asked for the nationalities of its patrol members. The patrol was allowed to proceed after 15 minutes.
- The SMM was stopped briefly at a government checkpoint in Makarove (government-controlled, 19km north-east of Luhansk), where patrol members had to declare their nationalities before proceeding.