Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 30 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 SMM recorded a number of explosions in Donetsk and Luhansk regions most of which it assessed to have been life-fire exercises.
The SMM recorded a number of explosions in Donetsk region. While at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation post at Donetsk central railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM recorded 25 explosions, between 12:37 and 13:00hrs. The explosions occurred at a distance of 5-6km south of the SMM’s position. According to Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) and “DPR” members present at the observation point, the explosions occurred at a shooting range 5 to 6km south of the observation point.
In government-controlled Rybynske (54km north of Mariupol), at 10:00hrs, the SMM heard two blasts in an undetermined direction to the east. A few minutes later, the SMM heard again three blasts from the same direction. At the JCCC office in Volnovakha (government-controlled, 35km south-west of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Armed Forces duty officer told the SMM that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were conducting demining exercises.
While in Svitlodarsk (government-controlled, 55km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard artillery fire occurring in the direction of Debaltseve (“DPR”-controlled, 58km north-east of Donetsk) between 11:00 and 11:38hrs. The Ukrainian Armed Forces officer at the JCCC office in Svitlodarsk told the SMM that it was a live-fire exercise by “DPR” forces using 152mm artillery near Debaltseve. The Ukrainian Armed Forces commander in government-controlled Prohorivka (55km south-west of Donetsk) was unable to confirm such information.
Between 11:40 and 13:00hrs, near government-controlled Starohnativka (53km north of Mariupol), the SMM heard and saw 96 explosions caused by incoming fire - assessed as heavy artillery - impacting at a distance of about 4km north-west of the SMM's position. The SMM observed thick smoke caused by some of the explosions in an abandoned field. At 11:55hrs, the SMM heard eight explosions north-east of its position. At 12:35hrs, the SMM heard and saw two outgoing blasts occurring at a north-westerly direction. Later, at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on the western outskirts of Starohnativka, soldiers told the SMM that the detonations had been part of a Ukrainian Armed Forces’ training exercise.
On the road from government-controlled Artemivsk (66km north-east of Donetsk) to “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (43km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed a queue of 170 civilian cars. In the opposite direction, a line of 350 civilian cars were waiting to enter government-controlled area.
The SMM recorded in Luhansk region 58 explosions, 48 of which occurred in areas of training ranges visited previously by the SMM.
Between government-controlled Nyzhnie (56 km north-west of Luhansk) and Toshkivka (60km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard between 10:15 and 11:00hrs a series of up to 22 explosions. The SMM estimated the sound of explosions to be coming from an easterly direction at a distance of 10-20 km, from a shooting range in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (32km north-west of Luhansk). Later at the shooting range in Trokhizbenka, the SMM observed Ukrainian Armed Forces firing two two-barrelled anti-aircraft guns (ZU-23) installed on trucks.
In Luhansk city, the SMM observed a convoy consisting of six parked trucks with white canvas marked with “Humanitarian aid from the Russian Federation”.
The SMM revisited seven Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas whose locations corresponded with respective withdrawal lines. The SMM observed all previously recorded weapons to be present at three of the areas – while finding the following weapons to be missing at the other four areas: three towed howitzers (152mm, 2A65 Msta-B) were missing from one area, as opposed to the previous visit on 24 September when two were missing; one towed howitzer (152mm, 2A65 Msta-B) remained missing from a second area as reported earlier; all six multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) (122mm, BM-21 Grad) were missing from a third area – as they have been since 12 July; all five MLRS (122mm, BM-21 Grad) were missing from a fourth area.
In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted a concentration of heavy weapons in “DPR”-controlled areas. On 29 September, it spotted six MBTs, eight APCs and 17 trucks in the area of Komsomolske (73km north-east of Mariupol), and at least 14 MBTs in the area of Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol). On the night of 29-30 September it spotted in a field west of Komsomolske around 40 individuals participating in exercise which involved five towed anti-tank guns (Rapira). At some point the guns were attached to trucks and a convoy was formed that started to move away. Later, the UAV spotted what seemed to be the same convoy entering a facility in the area of Starobesheve (9km north-west of Komsomolske, 34km south-east of Donetsk).
The SMM visited in Ivano-Frankivsk a high school to observe a “Protection of Motherland” lesson. The school director told the SMM that following a decree by the Ministry of Education, “Protection of Motherland”, the number of hours had been increased from one to two per week, with a focus on introducing the pupils to military training. He said the lessons are compulsory for boys; for girls it is limited to first aid and civil protection. However, girls had the possibility of requesting to participate in military lessons, he added. The SMM observed a one-hour class in the school gym hall for eleven teenage boys. The lesson was given by a retired military captain and included practical exercises and various drills, such as First Aid and weapons handling using wooden replica AK-47s.
In Odessa, the SMM observed 15 to 20 males (between the ages of 20 and 45 years), members of a pro-Maidan self-defence group and of Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) gathering in front of a hotel in the city centre; ten of them were wearing camouflage-style clothing and five had scarves covering their faces. One of the participants told the SMM that they were there to ask some foreign visitors not to support “a separatist event in Odessa”. The SMM entered the hotel and spoke with two members of a Greek delegation residing in the hotel who said that they had been invited to attend an event organized by a non-governmental organization called the “Association of National Minorities of the Black Sea Region”. They said they were afraid to leave the hotel because of the presence of the activists. A while later, three police patrol vehicles arrived, and ten police officers blocked the hotel entrance. At 14:00hrs, a vehicle from the Greek consulate arrived and the delegation was escorted away.
In Kherson, the SMM followed up on media reports about damage caused by an explosion at the Office of the Representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea. The SMM saw a damaged wooden door and a broken window located over the entrance door as well as a small amount of debris. The SMM saw a group of police forensics specialists on site conducting investigation of the premises. A police officer told the SMM that a small explosive device detonated at the doors to the Office around 3:00hrs on 30 September. The police officer said that the investigation department of the Security Service of Ukraine in Kherson region has taken over the investigation.
In Kyiv, the SMM followed up on media reports about an explosion on 29 September allegedly caused by a man throwing an explosive device outside the southern entrance of the main train station, injuring a woman (see SMM Daily Report 30 September). The SMM saw a small crater behind a kiosk located north-west of the southern entrance to the railway station. The SMM did not observe any further damage. A Kyiv police spokesperson informed the SMM that a suspect had been apprehended and charged with hooliganism.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernivtsi and Lviv.
*Restrictions on SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to 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. 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.
At a checkpoint in ‘‘LPR’’-controlled Khoroshe (35km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM was delayed for 35 minutes. The checkpoint commander told the SMM that he needed to get approval from his superiors; after the commander received approval, the SMM was allowed to pass.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate” for further information.