Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 20 May 2015
This report is for the media and the 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 consideration*. The SMM observed continuing ceasefire violations at and around Donetsk airport. The SMM observed a significant increase of ceasefire violations in the area of Shyrokyne with a total of more than 200 explosions. The SMM spoke to the two individuals held at the military hospital in Kyiv.
The SMM observed continuous ceasefire violations in and around Donetsk airport (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 12km north-west of Donetsk). During an 11-hour period from 7:30 to 18:45hrs, 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 176 explosions caused by incoming and outgoing artillery and mortar fire, as well as bursts of anti-aircraft gun and heavy machine gun. The SMM assessed that the explosions occurred at locations to the west, north-west and north and at distances ranging between 3.5 and 8km from its position.
The SMM observed that hostilities had resumed in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) in the late evening of 19 May, with artillery explosions heard all the way to Mariupol. The situation remained the following day, when from its observation point (4.5km south-west of Shyrokyne, 16km east of government-controlled Mariupol) the SMM heard a noticeable increase in the number of explosions, mostly outgoing and some incoming mortar shells (82mm and 120mm). This marked a significant increase over the previous days with a total of more than 200 explosions over the course of the day. The SMM heard one outgoing tank shot from government-controlled Berdyanske area (1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 20km east of Mariupol) and most likely impacting in the area of Shyrokyne. The SMM also heard intermittent exchanges of small-arms fire all afternoon, at times very intensive, to the east and the north-east of its position.
In Sakhanka (“DPR”-controlled, 24km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM observed an impact it assessed to have been caused by a 82mm mortar shell, which according to residents occurred during shelling on 11 May and hit a roof of a house causing damage. The SMM talked with residents in the village who said that shelling occurred also on 19 May between 19:00 and 20:00hrs, and on 20 May from 04:00 to 08:00hrs, with impacts in fields around the village observed by the SMM. It did not cause any casualties. According to the local residents shelling occurs very often in the area. The SMM observed the impact of a second 82mm mortar shell, which hit a garden on 19 May – according to residents - and destroyed an outbuilding, as well as breaking the windows of several nearby houses.
The SMM observed no military movement or heavy-caliber weapons systems in areas it patrolled in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (62.5km north-east of Donetsk).
The SMM monitored a gathering of about 10 females from “LPR”-controlled Krasnodon (43km south-east of Luhansk) in front of the regional administration of the “LPR” “ministry of social protection” in Luhansk city. The women, all single mothers from Krasnodon, said that they had come to Luhansk city to meet the “authorities”, as they had not received social and financial support. They claimed that this affected not only approximately 2,000 women, but an estimated total number of 5,000-6,000 people including children. They have been told by “LPR” structures to open a bank account in Roubles, but due to the low capacities of the two relevant bank offices to process new customers and the high number of people demanding bank services currently they were not able to open such bank accounts. In addition, some of the single mothers said they did not have valid passports or other documents which hindered them from crossing the border to the Russian Federation to receive medical support for children such as necessary vaccinations. There was no medical treatment for infants and children without payment in Krasnodon, which they could not afford. Moreover, prices of baby food are five times higher than before. They stated that they would organize a roadblock to stop the next humanitarian aid convoy from the Russian Federation in order to request their appropriate share of aid. According to the group they also held a meeting with the “minister of social protection”, who promised them support for opening a bank account. According to the protestors two out of ten single mothers received immediate social payment in an amount of 1,000 UAH.
In Alchevsk (“LPR”-controlled, 40km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM met with the “mayor” who expressed concern about the situation regarding water supply I the village. According to him, the city received only 6,000-8,000 ltrs/day of the needed 24,000 ltrs/day. The water is supplied from the government-controlled side and the supply system has been damaged by shelling. The interlocutor said that the water supply system cannot be repaired due to on-going fighting.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movement/presence in areas that are in violation of the Minsk withdrawal lines: in government-controlled areas, six MT-12 100mm anti-tank guns, and six T-64 main battle tanks.
The SMM visited the two individuals currently held at the military hospital in Kyiv, who received medical treatment. The SMM spoke to the two individuals without the presence of Ukrainian authorities. The SMM assessed their general condition and gathered their accounts about their capture.
One of them said he had received military education in the Russian Federation. Both individuals claimed that they were members of a unit of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. They claimed that they were on a reconnaissance mission. They were armed but had no orders to attack. Both of them said that they came under fire, got injured and were captured on 16 May 2015 at the contact line near Shchastya. One of them said he had received orders from his military unit to go to Ukraine; he was to “rotate” after three months. Both of them said they had been to Ukraine “on missions” before. One of them stressed repeatedly that there were no Russian troops involved in fighting in Ukraine. Both said they were provided with a Ukrainian lawyer who visited them today.
The SMM was stopped approximately one kilometre south of the city centre of Nadvirna (35km south of Ivano-Frankivsk) by participants of a demonstration. Three policemen were stopping traffic and were advising drivers to turn around or detour. The demonstration consisted of a group of about 60 persons, with approximately 30 people in military uniform, two with balaclavas. A tour bus and two vehicles in front of the SMM vehicle were allowed to pass through by demonstrators. A local woman told the SMM that the demonstration was organised by a local self-defence activist. The SMM was allowed to pass by the police but when the patrol further approached the demonstration with the intention to pass, the SMM vehicle was blocked. The demonstrators started making hissing and whistling noises and holding their noses and commenting about the “smell”.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, 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 the lack of information on whereabouts of landmines.
The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere.
- From 15:10 to 16:10hrs the SMM was kept waiting at the main “DPR” checkpoint in Novoazovsk (“DPR”-controlled, 45km east of Mariupol) in order to proceed to the crossing point of the Ukraine-Russian Federation border. Despite phone calls to the Novoazovsk ”DPR” “police” and the “DPR” “ministry of defense” the SMM could not pass and decided to return to base.
- When passing the checkpoint at the southern entry to Debaltseve (“DPR”-controlled, 62.5km north-east of Donetsk), a “DPR” member told the SMM to get in touch with the office of the “DPR” commander and to inform the personnel there about the SMM’s presence in the city. The SMM went there and was asked to wait. After waiting for more than 30 minutes, the SMM was let through the checkpoint.
- The SMM attempted to enter Oktyabr (“DPR”-controlled, 29km north-east of Mariupol), but was stopped at the “DPR” checkpoint at the eastern entrance to the village. After 25 minutes waiting, the SMM was allowed to travel with “DPR” escort through the village, but was not allowed to stop or leave the main road.