Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 28 May 2015
This report is provided for the media and the general public.
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 an increased number of ceasefire violations in areas around Donetsk airport, as compared to previous days. Due to security considerations, the SMM was unable to patrol in Shyrokyne. In “DPR”-controlled Petrivske, the presence of an unknown armed group was reported.
From an observation point at the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk central railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM noticed an increase in the number of ceasefire violations compared to previous days. Over a nine hour period during the day, the SMM heard 150 explosions from west and north-west, mostly consistent with mortar (82 and 120mm) and tank fire. In Luhansk region the SMM heard explosions in the area of government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north of Luhansk) and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Frunze (40km north-west of Luhansk). Due to security considerations, the SMM was unable to observe the situation in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol). However, from its position in Mariupol, the SMM heard several explosions emanating from an easterly direction.
In Petrivske (“DPR”-controlled, 38km south-east of Donetsk) the SMM spoke to a young man who said that the former local holiday camp was currently occupied by an unknown armed group. He could not specify for how long this armed group had been stationed in the village. In the village the SMM spoke to two women, both wearing military uniforms, with caps with Russian Federation Armed Forces insignia. They said that they were from Kramatorsk. During the conversation with the two women a vehicle with Russian Federation number plates stopped next to the OSCE vehicles and two armed men, similarly dressed, exited the car and ordered the women to stop the conversation with the SMM. Behind a tall fence inside the holiday camp, the SMM observed one infantry fighting vehicle.
At a checkpoint on the outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (10km east of Donetsk), the SMM observed a child, approximately 12-14 years old, wearing a camouflage uniform and holding an AK-47 rifle.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the “prime minister” of the “DPR” told the SMM that he was unavailable to attend meetings outside the country until the end of July due to health reasons.
In government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), a male resident told the SMM that on 27 May at around 00:00hrs, he heard heavy artillery fire until 01:30hrs near the bridge. According to the interlocutor, on 27 May there had been a gathering at the village administration building, where people had been informed by a municipal employee that the bridge in town would remain closed for 60 days, based on the decision of Luhansk governor Moskal from 26 May. He said that this announcement had caused bitterness among people present at the gathering.
The SMM met with the Stanytsia Luhanska deputy district head and a representative of the village council. According to the interlocutors, the reason for closing the bridge was the deteriorating security situation. They stated that the district had received EUR 2.1 million from Luhansk regional administration to repair infrastructure damaged by shelling. However, given the resumption of shelling, infrastructure repairs were suspended. The officials explained that the shelling was the reason behind the governor’s decision to close the bridge. The officials acknowledged large queues formed on a daily basis, as people hope to cross the bridge. According to them on 27 May, in order to accommodate people’s wish to cross into “LPR”-controlled areas, the village administration organized free public transportation to transfer people to one of the official crossing points that remain open, such as government-controlled Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk). Approximately 200 local inhabitants used this service. However, the interlocutors pointed out that their current budget would not enable them to continue this service. According to the officials on 28 May, there were 150 people gathering at the government-controlled side of the bridge demanding access to “LPR”-controlled territory.
The SMM re-visited two Ukrainian Armed Forces and one “LPR” heavy weapon holding areas observing that weapons previously recorded were in situ, and that their locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed 17 tanks in two concentrations in “LPR”-controlled areas north and north-west of Luhansk city.
The SMM visited the administrative boundary line in Chonhar (220km south-east of Kherson) and observed about 100 people queuing in front of the Ukrainian Border Guard containers and about 100 private vehicles with Ukrainian registration plates and 25 trucks queuing in front of the crossing point. The SMM also visited the bridge where the last position of the Ukrainian Border Guards is located and observed some 10 vehicles queuing to enter mainland Ukraine. The Ukrainian Border Guard personnel said the situation had been calm with no incidents reported. They said they do not have contact with the Russian Federation Border Guards. The officer in charge of the crossing point said the number of passengers traveling to Crimea for tourism had recently increased. The SMM visited a Ukrainian Border Guard position on Arabat Spit (238km south-east of Kherson) at the administrative boundary line with Crimea. The SMM spoke with the commander and soldiers at the last position of the Ukrainian Border Guards, just before a strip of land that serves as a neutral zone between Ukrainian Border Guards and Russian Federation Border Guards. The SMM observed a military tent some 300 metres away from the Ukrainian Border Guard position, which according to the Ukrainian commander belongs to the Russian Federation Armed Forces.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, 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.
- In Krasne (government-controlled, 47km west of Donetsk) the SMM was approached by Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel who requested from SMM IDs, the red OSCE booklet and passports. The SMM was held for 15 minutes.
- In Kramatorsk the SMM was halted at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint for 15 minutes. The SMM was ordered to park their vehicles, whilst civilian traffic was allowed to proceed. The SMM was informed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel that they were looking for one suspicious person. A member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces asked the patrol if there were any citizens from the Russian Federation in the patrol. Additionally, the SMM was requested to step out of the vehicles. Five SMM members showed their IDs and one SMM monitor with Russian Federation citizenship was requested to hand over his mobile telephone.
- At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Volnovakha (55km north of Mariupol, government-controlled), Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers at a checkpoint asked the SMM for the patrol members’ nationalities, names and OSCE ID numbers. The SMM was allowed to proceed after 20 minutes.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of
movement” for further information.