Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 2 September 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 the parties and security considerations*. The SMM observed few ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, and none in Luhansk. The SMM spoke to police and hospital staff following an alleged ambush in Luhansk region.
The SMM, at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), heard five ceasefire violations over a ten-hour period: two in an area 3-5km west, two 5-8km south-south-west of its position and one from an indeterminate area. In “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed 19 artillery or mortar impacts approximately 3-5km south-west of their position.
In government-controlled Marinka (23km west-south-west of Donetsk), the SMM noticed an unusually high level of civilian activity, and observed that stalls selling goods had been set up. Residents told the SMM there had been no shelling the previous night. Some complained of difficulty reaching Donetsk on the H15 road, which is closed to civilians.
The SMM met with the head of the Horlivka city “infrastructure rehabilitation department” and the principal of high school number 14 who said that repairs to the school would be completed by 16 October. According to them, the school had been hit eight times during shelling on 25 August. They told the SMM that teachers, children, and their parents are working on repairs at school number 14; and that repairs at school number 16 would be completed by 1 October. The deputy “chair” of Horlivka “city council” told the SMM that 11,500 students had registered for the school year, compared to 19,000 who had been registered the previous year.
The SMM visited the humanitarian and logistics centre at the government-controlled Zaitseve checkpoint (95km north of Donetsk). Civilians told the SMM they were generally happy with the services available, particularly the pharmacy, but they complained about the lack of fresh produce. According to representatives of state agencies, approximately 700 people use the centre daily. Only those who arrive from the other side of the line of contact were allowed to use the centre, according to the director of the market.
In Luhansk, the overall security situation was calm, and the SMM observed no ceasefire violations. At a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled checkpoint near Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), armed men told the SMM there had been no shelling or small arms fire in the last two days.
The SMM visited a hospital in Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) and saw four injured men who, according to a police officer, had been ambushed travelling within two kilometres of the contact line between the government-controlled towns of Lopaskyne and Lobacheve (24km and 18km north-west of Luhansk) early on 2 September. The police officer told the SMM that five civilian volunteers supporting the Anti-Terrorism Operation and one tax inspector were ambushed with rocket propelled grenades and small arms fired by unknown persons. A nearby Ukrainian Armed Forces unit had heard the firing and rushed to the scene, where a fire fight had ensued. According to hospital staff in Shchastia, two individuals had died (the tax inspector and a civilian volunteer) with the remaining four hospitalized with injuries. A doctor at Novoaidar hospital told the SMM that two soldiers – who had rushed to the scene - had been admitted, and are in a critical condition.
The SMM spoke with an education department officer in government-controlled Svatove (127km north-west of Luhansk), who said that the number of internally displaced children registered in schools had decreased by almost 50% (from 300 to 147) since September 2014 as families had returned to their homes closer to Luhansk.
A female teacher in “LPR”-controlled Mykolaivka (15km east of Luhansk) told the SMM that the school had registered 141 pupils for this year, up from 80 at the beginning of the last school year, although more pupils had joined during the school year. Before the conflict, around 220 children attended the school. The school building had suffered minor shell-damage during the conflict, with the majority of repairs facilitated by donations from parents of pupils.
In government-controlled Krymske (43 north-west from Luhansk), the SMM noted that the town’s only school had recently been renovated following shelling damage. According to the school director, repairs were funded by the Luhansk Regional Administration.
The SMM revisited two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas whose locations corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines. At one holding area, all previously recorded weapons were present. At another holding area, four towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm calibre) - previously recorded at this location - were missing.
The SMM met with the rector of the National Law University in Kharkiv who said that the number of foreign students enrolled for the upcoming year had dropped to 200 from the approximately 2,000 enrolled last year. He claimed prospective students had been put off by the conflict in the east and also by the attack on four students of foreign nationality in June (see SMM Daily Report, 16 June).
A trauma surgeon at Kyiv City Hospital number 17 informed the SMM that two National Guard members had died in the hospital on 31 August and 1 September respectively, and a third at Oleksandrivskyi Hospital on 1 September, following a grenade blast outside the Parliament building on 31 August (see SMM Spot Report, 31 August). All three died from injuries sustained by shrapnel wounds according to the surgeon. Forty-two law enforcement officers were treated for injuries at the hospital, with 137 treated in total at hospitals in the city. Police told the SMM that a man suspected of throwing the grenade (a 21 year-old member of the Sich volunteer battalion under the Ministry of the Interior) was detained at the District Department of Kyiv City Police on 31 August.
In Ivano-Frankivsk, the director of the regional department of education told the SMM that the number of internally displaced children enrolled for the current school year had doubled to 1,094 on last years’ figures.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi, and Lviv.
*Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the parties and security considerations, including mine threats, 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. Members of the “LPR” continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring most areas close to the border with the Russian Federation.
- Near Petrivske (63km north-east of Mariupol), armed “DPR” members stopped the SMM at a checkpoint and prevented further travel. The SMM waited for 90 minutes and then left. “DPR” members said they had no authorization from senior members to let the SMM through.
- Between “DPR”-controlled Byriuky and Novodvirske villages (30km south-east of Donetsk) an armed “DPR” member stopped the SMM and would not let the SMM proceed. No explanation was given. The SMM left the area.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate”.