Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 26 June 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 considerations*. The situation as observed at and around the Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne was relatively calm. The SMM observed the movement of heavy weapons on both sides of the contact line.
The situation at and around Donetsk airport was calm, as compared to previous days. At 11:09hrs, at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk central railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM saw and heard one explosion consistent with outgoing anti-aircraft gun fire, approximately 2km north-west of the SMM’s position. The round detonated in a burst of black smoke over the vicinity of the destroyed Donetsk airport.
At the JCCC headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 75km north-east of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives at the JCCC presented the SMM with two separate logbooks, both indicating a majority of ceasefire violations committed by the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) and “DPR” armed groups. The Ukrainian Major General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, stated that, in the morning of 26 June, the “DPR” forces launched 122 rockets from six Grad-P light portable rocket systems, impacting in the vicinity of Berdianske (government-controlled, 103km south of Donetsk, 18km east of Mariupol), destroying a JCCC vehicle and forcing representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to abandon a JCCC observation post. The Russian Federation Armed Forces Chief of Staff also referred to usage of approximately six pieces of Grad-P light portable rocket systems.
The SMM conducted an assessment of damage caused by shelling in the area of Berdianske and found four houses damaged, one of which was destroyed and another completely burned down. The SMM conducted crater analysis on 17 impacts, and assessed that they resulted from 120mm artillery shelling from the east-north-east.
In Dobropillya (government-controlled, 73km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM met ten male representatives (middle-aged) of Patriots of Dobropillia, who referred to themselves as a self-defence group and registered civil society organization. The group is comprised of around 100 active members - former military, businessmen and farmers, including high school-aged members, who jointly train with the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The group’s declared purpose is, among others, to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces along the line of contact, mainly in Pisky and Avdiivka. The interlocutors indicated that the group was self-funded, with contributions from local businesses, and that its members carried registered single shot hunting rifles.
Although the SMM observed only one ceasefire violation in the Luhansk region, the overall situation remained tense. The JCCC jointly reported to the SMM a total of 15 ceasefire violations from the side of the “LPR” against the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which included the use of small arms and light weapons, as well as mortars (82mm/120mm).
On 26 June, the SMM visited both sides of the government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk) and observed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint was heavily fortified with barbed wire and anti-tank mines, which had not been present when the SMM visited the checkpoint on 19 June. At the site, the SMM witnessed the transportation of a coffin from the “LPR”-controlled to the government-controlled side of the bridge, accompanied by four female relatives of the deceased civilian.
On 25 June, the SMM met four members of the Ukrainian Lawyers’ Association (men, aged between 30 and 65 years) in government-controlled Sievierodonetsk (74km north-west of Luhansk). Among others, they said they dealt with cases of cars allegedly stolen by members of the volunteer battalions operating under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, abuses committed by military personnel, and citizens accused of collaborating with the “LPR”. The director of the Luhansk regional centre for free legal aid in Milove (government-controlled, 108km north-east of Luhansk) informed the SMM that the newly-arisen cases the centre is dealing with are related to charges under crimes against the state, terrorist actions and illegal crossing of the border with the Russian Federation.
On 26 June, in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), two female shopkeepers in their forties confirmed to the SMM that the water supply had been restored. (See SMM Daily Report 24 June at http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/166856.)
On 26 June, the SMM met the director (male) of the coal mine Vergelevskaya shakhta in “LPR”-controlled Verhulivka (62km south-west of Luhansk), which according to the interlocutor had stopped working in June 2014 due to eruption of the conflict. He added that the mine, which previously had 1586 employees, was currently maintained in a non-operational mode (pump up the water and gas in and out of the mine) by around 400 engineers, who did not get paid. According to the director, the mine’s customers – all of them Ukrainian, currently did not buy coal from mines in “LPR”-controlled areas.
On 26 June, the deputy “mayor” of Luhansk told the SMM that the humanitarian aid recently received from the Russian Federation would be distributed to around 7,900 persons, considered as the most vulnerable in town.
The SMM re-visited four “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas, whose locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines, and in three of them found all previously recorded heavy weapons in situ. At the fourth site, the SMM could not compare the serial numbers with previous records, since only one SMM monitor was allowed to go in without a notebook.*
Despite claims by all sides that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements/presence in areas that are non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines. In several government-controlled areas, the SMM observed a total of 12 main battle tanks (MBTs) (T-64, T-72 and of unknown type), some of them static, others grouping together, or being transported. In “LPR”-controlled areas, the SMM observed 18 tanks (T-64) and 15 military trucks performing training exercises.
A female representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kharkiv informed the SMM that, on 25 June, unknown suspects shot randomly with rubber bullets at three private mini-buses in Sumi street, Kharkiv city center. Two persons suffered injuries. An investigation had been launched under the charges of hooliganism. In Chuhuiv (35km south-east of Kharkiv), the SMM confirmed that a two-meter-tall statue of Lenin was not in its usual place any longer, observing traces of recent alterations on the remaining pedestal. The deputy mayor of Chuhuiv did not comment on a possible removal, while the local police said they have no information about the circumstances of the removal.
Representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the police in Dnepropetrovsk told the SMM that two women of Russian nationality, suspected of affiliation with the Islamic State, had been detained on 25 June. The SMM was told that the women were transiting through Dnepropetrovsk, with the intention of travelling to Syria on forged documents. One of the women was to be extradited to the Russian Federation, or a third country, while the other had been arrested pursuant to Article 358 (forgery of documents, stamps, seals, or letterheads, and sale or use of forged documents) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
On 26 June, the SMM monitored a session of the regional council in Ivano-Frankivsk, with 65 out of 113 members present, who agreed to create 61 new communities out of approximately 500 villages, municipalities and cities in the region, based on the Law on Voluntary Merger of Territorial Communities, adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament on 5 February 2015. The regional council voted and approved 12 of these new communities, which had already submitted all necessary documentation. The SMM also observed a peaceful rally in front of the regional administration building in Ivano-Frankivsk, which gathered around 200 youth (mixed gender) calling for reforms. The protest was organized by the non-governmental organizations People’s Front and Call of Nation.
On 24 June, the representative of the Hungarian association in Solotyvno (182km south-south-west of Ivano-Frankivsk), near the border with Romania, told the SMM that elderly people, who speak only Hungarian or Romanian, experienced difficulties during the last two national elections filling in ballots, which according to the law were printed only in Ukrainian.
On 25 June, in Kyiv, SMM attended a press conference announcing the establishment of an NGO coalition for monitoring the implementation of civic reforms in Ukraine, which comprises 13 Ukrainian NGOs.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi and Lviv.
* Restrictions on SMM monitoring, 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 presence – and lack of information on the whereabouts – of mines, and damaged infrastructure. The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere. Self-imposed restrictions on movement into high-risk areas have impinged on SMM patrolling activities, particularly in areas not controlled by the government. Most areas along the Ukraine-Russian Federation international border have ordinarily been placed off limits to the SMM by both the “DPR” and “LPR”.
- On 25 June, the SMM was delayed for 4 minutes at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint upon entering Makarove (government-controlled, 19km north-east of Luhansk). Soldiers staffing the checkpoint wrote down the license plate numbers of the SMM vehicles, asked the SMM for the patrol team leader’s name, and for the nationalities of all patrol team members. After providing the requested information, the SMM was allowed to continue.
- The “DPR” guards stopped the SMM at a checkpoint in Oktiabr, on its way to Shyrokyne. No further explanation was provided. The patrol was cancelled.
- At a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, only one SMM monitor was allowed to go in without a notebook. As a result, the SMM could not compare the serial numbers with previous records.