Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 31 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”. Its monitoring was restricted by third parties and security considerations*. The SMM continued to observe a significant number of ceasefire violations in and around Donetsk and Donetsk airport. The SMM continued to be unable to travel to Avdiivka, Shyrokyne and certain other locations in “DPR”-controlled areas due to security considerations.
(* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.)
The SMM continued to observe a significant number of ceasefire violations in and around “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk city and Donetsk airport (10km north-west of Donetsk city centre). From observation points in Donetsk city centre and at the city’s central railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard a total of 253 explosions during the 48-hour period ending at 19:30hrs on 31 May.
The explosions and additional periodic bursts of small arms fire that the SMM heard during the reporting period were consistent with heavy and light weapons fire including tank, artillery, mortar (120mm and 82mm), automatic grenade launcher, and heavy machine gun. The SMM concluded that the explosions and bursts had occurred in or around government-controlled Pisky (7km west of Donetsk) and Opytne (12km north-west of Donetsk), as well as the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk airport (10km north-west of Donetsk), Zhabunky and Spartak (7 and 10km north-north-west of Donetsk).
The SMM met with the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), and the Russian Federation Armed Forces Colonel-General, Representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the JCCC, at the headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 77km north-north-east of Donetsk). The incident logs provided to the SMM by each party differed in attribution of responsibility and total numbers, indicating from 76 to 83 ceasefire violations on 30 May and from 56 to 75 ceasefire violations on 31 May.
Whilst in government-controlled Mariupol (103km south of Donetsk), on 29 May, the SMM observed several artillery ‘marking rounds’, detonating in the vicinity of Shyrokyne (10km east of Mariupol) between 21:25 and 21:30hrs. According to the Ukrainian Armed Forces log presented to the SMM at the JCCC, there were four incidents in the vicinity of Shyrokyne on 30 May. The SMM later received communications from the mayor of Shyrokyne and the Representative of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to the JCCC indicating that a civilian had been killed in the village of Shyrokyne on 30 May.
The SMM observed that the overall security situation in Luhansk region remained calm, although on 30 May at 09:52hrs near Lysychansk (government-controlled, 75km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM heard three explosions consistent with outgoing shelling from unknown weapons.
At a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled location south of the bridge at Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-west of Luhansk) on 30 May between 09:40 and 11:45hrs, the SMM observed three new artillery strike craters that had not existed at the time of the last SMM patrol at 16:00hrs on 29 May. After an examination, the SMM concluded that the craters were from a powerful low angle strike from a large calibre weapon and that the rounds had clearly come from a northerly direction.
The SMM visited eight Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas (re-visiting seven, and visiting one for the first time). At three of these sites, the SMM observed that while most previously recorded weapons were in situ and their locations were in compliance with the respective withdrawal lines, some of the heavy weapons previously recorded and accounted for were missing. Not present were six howitzers (152mm 2A65 “Msta-B”), six “Grad” Multiple Rocket Launcher systems (122mm BM-21), and four towed howitzers (152mm 2A36 “Giatzint”). Additionally, the SMM visited one “LPR” heavy weapons holding area and observed the absence of all of the previously recorded military equipment: four tanks (T-64), four armoured combat vehicles (BMP-1s), seven multi-purpose light-armoured vehicle (MTLBs) including four with mounted anti-aircraft “STRELA-10” systems, four multiple rocket launcher systems (BM-2 “GRAD”), four self-propelled howitzers (2SI “Gvozdika” 122mm), four towed howitzers (2A65 “MSTA-B” 152mm), and several support trucks.
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed, the SMM’s unmanned aerial vehicle and teams observed a number of stationary or moving tanks (T-64 and T-72) in locations that are non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines, including 21 in government-controlled areas, three in “DPR”-controlled areas, and two in “LPR”-controlled areas.
The SMM monitored an annual media forum in Lviv from 28 to 30 May attended by approximately 600 participants (mixed gender, mostly younger and middle-aged adults), reportedly from all over Ukraine. The main theme of the forum was ‘Media in a Time of Tumultuous Change’, and featured 54 speakers from ten different countries. Main topics included inter alia how to cover sensitive issues objectively in times of conflict. The SMM noted that all of the discussions were inclusive, open and transparent.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, Kherson, 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. Areas where the SMM is unable to travel currently include Avdiivka, Pisky, Luhanske, Shyrokyne, and Novoazovsk (all “DPR”-controlled areas).
The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere.
- On 29 May, at 12:00hrs, an “LPR” member in the “LPR”-controlled village of Pionerske (19km east of Luhansk), aggressively demanded SMM travel authorization papers. The SMM provided relevant documents but the “LPR” member discounted the documents and SMM explanations, and demanded the patrol leave the area immediately ‘without stopping or weapons would be used’.
- On 30 May, at 10:00hrs, at an “LPR”-controlled checkpoint near Zhovte (17km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM was denied access to the village of Zhovte, ostensibly due to the threat of mines.
- On 31 May, an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle experienced jamming for approximately five minutes along the contact line north-east of Mariupol, entailing a loss of video-feed and ability to monitor.