Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 31 July 2015
The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements.” Its monitoring was restricted by the parties and security considerations*. The overall security situation at and around Donetsk airport was tense. The situation in Mariupol was calm. In Luhansk region, the SMM did not record any ceasefire violations.
The overall security situation in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)–controlled Donetsk city as well as at and around Donetsk airport was tense in the night between 30 and 31 July as well as on 31 July. On July 30, from its position in Donetsk city centre, from 19:35hrs onwards, the SMM observed 40 outgoing explosions assessed as caused by artillery and anti-aircraft guns, 2-5km west and south-west of its position.  On July 31, positioned at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk), between 08:05 and 13:00hrs, the SMM observed six explosions and multiple bursts of small-arms and light-weapons (SALW) fire 3-5km north, west, north-west, north-northwest. The SMM also heard 68 explosions 4-5km south-southwest estimated as originating from a training ground. Between 12:45 and 18:00hrs, the SMM heard 38 explosions 3-8km north, north-northeast, north-east, south-west, west and north-west of its position. The SMM observed one incoming anti-aircraft round exploding 3km to the west of its position.
Between Donetsk and Kurakhove (37 km south-west of Donetsk), at a distance of up to 300m east of the first Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, the SMM spotted ten impacts on the road and as many impacts in the surrounding fields. The SMM observed fragments of 82mm mortar (tails, others). It also saw fresh grass and dirt probably thrown by explosions to the road. The SMM did not stop for security reasons.
On the southern outskirts of Olenivka (“DPR”-controlled, 23km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM passed through a checkpoint operated by armed “DPR” members some with a foreign accent, most likely from the Caucasus.
In Debaltseve (“DPR”-controlled, 55km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed 60 people (mainly elderly women) queuing in front of a humanitarian aid distribution centre. The SMM observed also, close to the “military police” building, 50 men dressed in camouflage clothes some of them wearing flak jackets. At the railway station, the duty officer told the SMM that only passenger trains were currently stopping there. He said he did not know what type of cargo the trains transiting non-stop through Debaltseve were carrying. Another female employee working at the railway station’s statistics department told the SMM that most dispatchers had been transferred to other towns. According to her, no train had stopped in Debaltseve and on average one train per day transited.
In Luhansk region, the SMM did not observe any ceasefire violation. The SMM visited locations along the contact line near the government-controlled Shchastia (20km north-west of Luhansk) bridge. According to a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander, shelling had occurred on July 25 and 26. He presented ten remnants of what the SMM assessed as shells from a weapon of at least 100mm calibre. The SMM also observed two civilian vehicles which it estimated as destroyed by an anti-tank grenade launcher, impact traces in the vehicles caused in its assessment by machine-gun bullets, automatic grenade launchers and grenade launcher projectiles. The SMM saw two craters with a diameter up to 1.5m in which it found fragments (not-rusted) of artillery projectiles and remains of a fuse (RGM-2M). The SMM conducted crater analysis and assessed that the fire came from a southerly direction.
At a checkpoint outside of government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), following up on reports of shelling during the previous night, the SMM observed 12 craters with diameters up to 90cm. The SMM saw metal fragments inside the craters. The SMM conducted crater analysis and estimated that the artillery shelling had been caused from an easterly direction. The commander of the checkpoint said the shelling had occurred between 02:19 and 02:49 hrs. The SMM spoke with a local male resident in his fifties, who confirmed the time and duration.
The SMM met with the “commander” in “LPR”-controlled Donetskyi (50 km north-west of Luhansk) who said that there had been three rounds of artillery shelling between 23:00hrs on 28 July and 01:00hrs on 29 July. The SMM observed two completely destroyed houses as a result, in the SMM’s assessment, of incoming heavy artillery shelling from a north-westerly direction, and was told also by two residents (men in their seventies) that shelling had occurred the previous night.
The SMM visited for the first time one “LPR” heavy weapons holding area whose locations complied with the weapons’ respective withdrawal lines. At the facility, the SMM observed nine main battle tanks: eight T-64 (125 mm calibre) and one T-72 (125mm calibre).
At the Constitutional Court building in Kyiv, the SMM monitored an announcement made by the presiding judge acting as a spokesperson of the Court on the topic ‘Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on decentralization’ (see SMM Daily Report 17 July 2015). The SMM heard that the local elections concerning the heads of territorial communities as well as the regional councils shall be held in October 2017. According to reviewed draft law on the amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution, a new paragraph 18 “Special order of self-governance in some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions regulated by the Law” shall be added to chapter 15. The Constitutional Court’s decision is final.
On 30 July, in Odessa, the SMM met with a member of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) who denied media reports of the mobilization of 7,000 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the Transdniestrian section of the Moldovan-Ukrainian state border. He said the section of the border in question was the only place in Odessa region where National Guard members served in support of the service, but did not specify how many. The interlocutor said the current security situation along the border was calm despite some smuggling attempts.
In Kharkiv, the SMM observed, in the morning, a group of 30-40 elderly people (men and women) and ten young men protesting in front of the regional justice department building against what they called the inability of the Opposition Bloc to register for the local elections. Fifty police officers were present. In the afternoon, the SMM also observed another gathering – pro-Ukrainian – at the same location with 100 men of all ages, some of them holding Ukrainian and Right Sector flags. These activists demanded that the Opposition Bloc not be registered in Kharkiv region. Both rallies were peaceful.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Chernivtsi.
* Restrictions on SMM monitoring, access and freedom of movement:
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the 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, particularly those controlled by the “LPR”, have ordinarily been placed off limits to the SMM.
- At a checkpoint in the outskirts of Debaltseve (“DPR”-controlled, 55km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was requested by “DPR” members to show national passports and had to wait 20 minutes to pass.
- At a “DPR” checkpoint near Oleksandrivka (20km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM was requested by “DPR” members to open the trunks of two patrol vehicles. The SMM proceeded after5mins.
- At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint east of Kurakhove (37km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM members were asked about their nationalities. The SMM proceeded after 5mins.
For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.