Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 4 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 observed a calm situation overall in the Donetsk region. 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), the SMM recorded only one ceasefire violation – an airburst from an anti-aircraft gun 4km north-north-west of its position. At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near government-controlled Marinka (23km west-south-west of Donetsk) located 3km west of the first “DPR” checkpoint on the road to Donetsk city, the SMM saw and heard two incoming explosions by 82mm mortars approximately 200m north of its position.
In a field 4km north-west of “DPR”-controlled Yenakiieve (37km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed an on-going field exercise with live ammunition, conducted with main battle tanks (MBT), and saw at least four airbursts and four impacts 2-3km west of its position. In addition, the SMM heard intensive outgoing heavy-machine gun and small-arms fire at distances ranging between 3 and 5km north-west of its position.
In government-controlled Pavlopil (26km north-east Mariupol), the SMM spoke to three school children and their mothers. The children had started attending school in government-controlled Talakivka (17km north-east of Mariupol) from 1 September due to the closure of the only school in Pavlopil (see SMM Daily Report 1 September). The interlocutors told the SMM that starting from the coming week the children would be on a special list used by Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint personnel in government-controlled Hnutove (20km north-east of Mariupol) allowing them to cross the checkpoint without waiting in line. Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel at the checkpoint in Hnutove confirmed this information to the SMM. The mothers told the SMM that they crossed the checkpoint, where they had to wait for one and a half hours to proceed in both directions, to take their children to school every day.
On 3 September, in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM met with the deputy “chief” of the city “police department” who informed that the “department” had only approximately 30 percent of its pre-conflict staff as most had left the job due to the conflict and that the “department” faced difficulties in recruiting new staff due to low numbers of applicants. However, the population in the city had also decreased to 210,000 people compared to 300,000 people before the conflict, he noted.
At a checkpoint in government-controlled Zaitseve (50km north-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed a queue of 163 civilian vehicles waiting to enter “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-north-east of Donetsk) and 540 civilian vehicles waiting to enter government-controlled area.
At a checkpoint on the southern outskirts of government-controlled Novotroitske (36km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed a queue of approximately 230 civilian vehicles waiting to enter from “DPR”-controlled to government-controlled area.
In Luhansk region, the SMM observed a calm situation overall and recorded no ceasefire violations.
In a training area in “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Myrne (28km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed five MBT tanks (T-64).
In government-controlled Krymske (43km north-west of Luhansk), a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander informed the SMM about shelling by 120mm mortar in the government-controlled northern area of Zholobok (48km north-west of Luhansk) near the contact line, during the night of 2 September. Due to security reasons, the SMM could not observe possible impact areas, which were mined according to signs.
At the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on the government-controlled northern side of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk), the commander told the SMM that only those who had a special permit were allowed to cross the checkpoint. The interlocutor showed the SMM a list of medical staff who lived on the “LPR”-controlled southern side and were allowed to cross the bridge to work on the government-controlled side.
The SMM visited school number 14 in government-controlled Zolote 3 (60km north-west of Luhansk), where the school director told the SMM that there were 12 enrolled pupils – compared to 65 pupils before the conflict and 47 pupils at the end of the previous academic year. The interlocutor added that the school – located about 700-800m from the contact line – had been severely damaged by shelling, but its gymnasium had been renovated and new windows and a new roof had been installed with funding from the Norwegian Refugee Council and Germany before the academic year had started.
In government-controlled Kolesnykivka (30km east-north-east of Luhansk), at the international Ukraine-Russian Federation border, two Ukrainian Border Guard servicemen informed the SMM that the situation had been calm in the village and the Ukrainian side had closed the border crossing point since May this year.
On 3 September, the SMM met with the owner of a pasta factory in “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city who said the factory had employed 80 personnel and had annually produced more than 1,000 tons of pasta before the conflict. The interlocutor told the SMM that now, the factory had 25 active employees and operated at only 6-8 percent of its capacity and faced problems with raw material supplies, as the main flour supplier was located in government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk).
The SMM visited again two Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, whose locations corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines. In both areas, the SMM observed that all previously registered weapons were present and their serial numbers matched the SMM’s records.
The SMM visited for the first time one “LPR” heavy weapons holding area and visited again one “LPR” heavy weapons holding area, whose locations corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines. At the first area, the “LPR” members allowed the SMM to see weapons only from a distance and the SMM could not verify the serial numbers.* At the second area, the SMM saw that all weapons previously observed on 1 July (six multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS) (Grad, 122mm)) were absent. “LPR” members told the SMM that all weapons had been relocated to a new holding area.
The SMM observed the following weapons’ movements in areas that are in violation of respective withdrawal lines. In “DPR”-controlled areas, the SMM saw two military type trucks (KRAZ) towing howitzers (D-30, 122mm).
On 3 September in Kharkiv, the head of the special police rapid response battalion of Kharkiv regional police informed the SMM that the battalion personnel operated in the districts adjacent to the Anti-Terrorism Operation area. He added that during the first half of 2015, the regional police, mainly his battalion, had seized a number of weapons and ammunition, including 21 grenade launchers, 5 machine guns, and 331 hand grenades.
In Kyiv, the SMM met with the chief administrator of Hospital Number 17 to follow up on media reports on casualties during the grenade blast outside the Parliament building on 31 August (see: SMM Spot Report 31 August). The interlocutor informed the SMM that three National Guard members who were reported by media to be in critical condition were recovering and described their prognosis as “favourable”.
In front of the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ main investigative department for organized crime, the SMM monitored the gathering of approximately 50 members and supporters of Svoboda party (men and women equally, different age groups) who accused Minister Avakov of what they referred to as reprisals against political opponents. They also expressed their support for Svoboda party leader, Oleh Tiahnybok who was at the time of the gathering questioned inside the Ministry about the protest outside the Parliament building on 31 August. The SMM observed that around 26 police officers were present, with additional police officers on hold in three busses parked nearby. The protest ended peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Odessa, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk 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 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. Members of the “LPR” continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring most areas close to the border with the Russian Federation.
- At an “LPR” heavy weapons holding area “LPR” members allowed the SMM to see weapons only from a distance and the SMM was thus unable to verify serial numbers.
- At a “DPR” checkpoint at Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk) a “DPR” “traffic police officer” together with an armed “DPR” member stopped and delayed the SMM for 33 minutes before he received “permission” from relevant superiors and let the SMM proceed.
At a “DPR” checkpoint near Shirokyi village (6.5km south-south-west of Donetsk city) a DPR “police officer” stopped the SMM and asked for IDs and names of the SMM drivers. After 10 minutes the SMM was allowed to pass.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfillment of its mandate”.