Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 27 September 2015
This report is for the media and 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 situation remained largely calm in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with only sparse ceasefire violations recorded by the SMM. The SMM observed considerable queues of civilian vehicles waiting at checkpoints to cross both into government-controlled and non-government controlled areas.
The SMM recorded a small number of ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region, where the security situation was otherwise relatively calm. 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 on 26 September three instances of ceasefire violations between 11:28 and 13:34hrs. The Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives at the JCCC present at the observation point suggested the explosions were likely part of “DPR” training activities.
On 27 September the SMM heard six explosions consistent with outgoing mortar or artillery fire, as well as small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire some 1.5-2km east of its position at a filling station in government-controlled Opytne (61km north-east of Donetsk). The SMM enquired with an employee at the filling station who said there was a Ukrainian Armed Forces firing range in the area.
In government-controlled Dzerzhynsk (41km north of Donetsk), the SMM talked on 26 September to the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces battalion deployed to the area. The interlocutor claimed that while the situation was calmer recently, his subordinates reported that “DPR” intelligence gathering and reconnaissance patrols in the area were contributing to a tense atmosphere.
On 26 September the SMM observed a convoy consisting of 15 cargo trucks marked as humanitarian convoy belonging to the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which was leaving “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city travelling freely through the “DPR” checkpoint in a southern direction. The SMM also observed in Donetsk city five cargo trucks escorted by a “DPR” “military police” vehicle, moving west.
In government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM talked to several interlocutors, who expressed a strong opinion about the need for Ukrainian Armed Forces to open a passage across the contact line for the residents from the nearby villages to travel on the Kurakhove-Donetsk route. Following that the SMM discussed the issue with the civil-military co-operation officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Marinka, who stated the Anti-Terrorist Operation Headquarters was considering the idea of opening the requested passage corridor.
The SMM spoke to shop-owners in government-controlled Krasnohorivka (21km west of Donetsk) who indicated that they had to acquire from the city administration a permit with the list of products they were bringing through government checkpoints, and that there was a limit for the amount of goods per crossing. The deputy commander at the closest relevant government checkpoint near Heorhiivka (26km south-west of Donetsk) confirmed to the SMM that local businesses indeed had to obtain a permit in order to transport goods through the checkpoint.
On 26 September the SMM observed long lines of civilian vehicles at armed checkpoints waiting to cross both into governmental-controlled and “DPR”-controlled areas. While driving on H20 highway the SMM recorded at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near Berezove (31km south-west of Donetsk) a queue of 160 vehicles waiting to cross into government-controlled area. Approaching a government checkpoint near government-controlled Volnovakha (52km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM noted 90 vehicles waiting to cross into the governmental-controlled area, and 432 vehicles queued to move north, into the “DPR”-controlled area. At a checkpoint near government-controlled Maiorsk (44km north of Donetsk) the SMM counted 370 vehicles waiting to enter the government-controlled area, while 16 buses, 300 pedestrians, and 30 vehicles were queued to enter the “DPR”-controlled area. At the government checkpoint near Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed at least 79 vehicles waiting to move into the “DPR”-controlled area and 373 vehicles waiting to travel into the government-controlled area.
At the “Shakhtarski Zori” health resort in Proletarskyi district of “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city, the SMM observed on 27 September a civilian mini-van with Russian Federation Krasnodar region licence plates. The licence plate number was fixed on a factory-made frame carrying the Russian inscription “FSB of Russian Federation”. As the SMM was about to depart from the facility, a male wearing the Russian new-style camouflage uniform without any rank, insignia or patches, came out of the resort building and took a photograph or video of the leaving SMM vehicle, and made written notes.
The SMM observed an overall calm security situation in the Luhansk region with few ceasefire violations. On 26 September, from a stationary position north of government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard in short intervals a couple of small-arms shots, three undetermined explosions, and sounds of two outgoing 82mm mortar rounds. All sounds were assessed as originating from the nearby Ukrainian Armed Forces military training area, and the SMM was informed in advance by Ukrainian Armed Forces that live-fire exercises would be conducted at this specific training facility.
During their interaction with the SMM both Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and armed “Lugansk People’s Republic (“LPR”) members made mutual allegations of small-arms ceasefire violations. “LPR” members told the SMM that they were targeted on 25 September in the area of “LPR”-controlled Pryshyb (33km north-west of Luhansk), and Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk). The Ukrainian Armed Forces interlocutors stated they came under fire at the checkpoint near government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk).
On 27 September the SMM enquired on prices and the availability of goods at two trading places in “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city. While both markets were well equipped with food and sanitary items the SMM concluded that the cost of basic products increased by an average 5% during the month of September. The SMM interlocutors at the markets claimed that the rise in prices was owed to the fact that they had to pay at the checkpoints for transporting the supplies into “LPR”-controlled areas. The SMM observed that the Russian Rouble was used as the primary currency in the market transactions, rather than the Ukrainian Hryvnia.
The SMM monitored on 26 September a local ceasefire regime, through which it facilitated power line repair works near “LPR”-controlled Obozne (18km north of Luhansk). The SMM heard two explosions occurring within an interval of three hours. A repair worker of the electrical company informed the SMM that a member of the “LPR” demining team had been injured by an anti-personnel mine in the first explosion, and transported to the hospital. The second explosion, according to the interlocutor, was a controlled detonation of unexploded ordnance (UXO) performed by the “LPR” demining team during the demining process that preceded the repairs.
The SMM re-visited on 26 September three “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas. At one of the sites the “DPR” armed member on guard did not allow access to the SMM for 50 minutes, until receiving permission from his superiors. One anti-tank gun (MT-12 Rapira, 10mm) was missing at this location.
On 27 September the SMM visited another two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas. At one of the sites the SMM recorded that two self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) were missing. At the second site the SMM observed two multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS, BM-21 Grad, 122mm) were missing, as they had been during the previous visit on 5 April (see SMM Daily Report 7 April).
The SMM visited on the same day two Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, which were found empty. The SMM had previously recorded eight self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) at one site and four self-propelled howitzers (2S1) at the second. The military commander present at the first site told the SMM that the weapons were redeployed to another specified location on the previous day. At the second site the SMM learned from several civilian interlocutors that the military removed the weapons from the site a few days prior to the visit.
In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted 11 tanks (type unknown) in the area of “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (56km south-east of Donetsk).
The SMM observed military movement in areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines. The SMM UAV observed on 26 September five tanks in the “DPR”-controlled area of Komsomolske (43km south-east of Donetsk). Both on 26 and 27 September the SMM UAV spotted a concentration of at least 50 tanks and other military hardware in a training area south of “DPR”-controlled Torez (61km east of Donetsk).
On 26 September the SMM observed at least 36 tanks (type unknown) at the training area in “LPR”-controlled Kruhlyk (31km south-west of Luhansk). A day earlier the SMM spotted at the same training area one heavy multiple launch thermobaric rocket system (TOS-1 Buratino, 220mm).
In the area of government-controlled Novookhtyrka (53km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM noted a convoy consisting of three main battle tanks (T-72) transported on trailers, and one infantry fighting vehicle (IFV, BMP-2) moving east.
On 27 September the SMM noted a military convoy in the area of government-controlled Artemivsk (66km north-east of Donetsk), which contained six self-propelled howitzers (2S1), one armoured personnel carrier (APC), and one military truck transporting troops to a north-west direction. Also on 27 September the SMM observed another convoy consisting of four IFVs (BMP), and three towed howitzers (D-30) moving north away from Artemivsk on the M03 highway.
On 27 September the SMM noted a convoy of six tracked APCs (type unknown) moving east, in the area of government-controlled Plotyna (28km north-east of Luhansk). On the same day the SMM observed at the training area near “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk) a number of heavy artillery pieces, including 12 towed howitzers (D-30, 122mm), and 13 self-propelled howitzers (2S1), an increase comparing to previous SMM observation (see SMM Daily Report 25 September).
The SMM continued to monitor the situation at the crossing points to Crimea – Kalanchak, Chaplynka, and Chonhar (95, 90, and 162km south-east of Kherson, respectively) – which remained relatively calm and stable. Activists randomly checked vehicles and drivers’ documents at their improvised check-points, which are now installed a few kilometres away from the three Ukrainian border guards crossing points.
At the activists’ improvised checkpoint some 2km away from the Kalanchak crossing point, a protester who introduced herself as the Pravyi Sektor’s Press Officer told the SMM that the vehicle drivers and passengers did not object to car searches when approached by activists, and “showed their understanding of the blockade”. At Chonhar, another Pravyi Sektor activist told the SMM on 27 September that less than a quarter of the drivers passing the ‘blockade’ were contesting the activists’ efforts to conduct vehicle searches.
On 27 September the SMM followed up with the Odessa Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Odessa regional police on the explosion that occurred at the headquarters of the Odessa SBU office earlier the same day. The police confirmed that an unidentified explosive device in the equivalent of at least 5 kg of trinitrotoluene (TNT) had been placed near the back door of the SBU building and exploded at 04:45hrs. The SBU interlocutor told the SMM that nobody had been injured in the detonation, and that an investigation had been initiated under the “terrorism” article of Ukraine’s Criminal Code.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv.
*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 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 some areas not controlled by the government. Members of the “LPR” continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring in some areas close to the border with the Russian Federation.
- On 26 September the armed personnel at a “DPR” “traffic police” checkpoint stopped the SMM some 2km away from the Ternove shooting range, denying its passage without any explanation;
- On 27 September two “LPR” “border guards” stopped the SMM in “LPR”-controlled Velykyi Sukhodil (43km south-east of Luhansk), a town 1.5km away from the Ukraine-Russian Federation international border. The “LPR” members denied the SMM any further movement without a permit signed by the “LPR” leadership, demanded the SMM to leave the area, and escorted it out of town.
- During the visit of a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area on 26 September, the SMM was not allowed access to the site for 50 minutes, until the “DPR” guard received a phone call from his superior;
- The “DPR” armed members at a checkpoint near Ozeryanivka (32km north-east of Donetsk) delayed the SMM for 75 minutes, after which it only allowed its movement with an escort.
Interference with the UAV:
- On 27 September, while flying over “DPR”-controlled areas north-east of government-controlled Mariupol (103km south-west of Donestk) a SMM UAV was jammed four times.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.