Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 5 January 2016
In Donetsk region, the SMM observed a small number of ceasefire violations, most of which were recorded around Donetsk airport. In Luhansk region, the SMM registered mortar shelling. The SMM was again denied access to Kominternove, from the east and south-west*. The SMM followed-up on reports of tensions between religious communities in western Ukraine and the creation of a self-defence force in Kherson.
The SMM observed relative calm with a small number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region. Positioned at the Donetsk railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard a total of four undetermined explosions and three bursts of small-arms fire at locations 5-8km east and north-west of its position. Whilst in government-controlled Pryazovske (14km north-west of Mariupol), the SMM recorded one undetermined explosion south-south-east of its position.
The overall situation in Luhansk region was relatively calm. Nonetheless, after two days of not observing ceasefire violations, the SMM recorded three incidents involving ceasefire violations, one of which consisted of 18 impacts approximately 3km south-west of its position, whilst at an “LPR” checkpoint near Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk). The SMM assessed the sound to be consistent with mortar shelling.
In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of measures, the SMM revisited a Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent weapon storage site whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines. All weapons previously verified as withdrawn to the site were present.
The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons foreseen in the Minsk Package of measures. The SMM has yet to receive the full information requested in the 16 October notification (see SMM Daily Report 14 December 2015).
The SMM revisited an “LPR” heavy weapons permanent storage site and noted that all weapons previously verified as withdrawn to this site were present.
The SMM revisited locations beyond the respective withdrawal lines known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even though they did not comply with the specific criteria set out for permanent storage sites in the 16 October notification.
The SMM revisited such government-controlled holding areas and observed: 27 anti-tank guns (24 MT-12 Rapira, 100mm, and three M30, 122mm); 26 mortars (23 2B11, 120mm, and three PM38, 120mm); 47 self-propelled howitzers (26 2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm, and 21 2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm); 30 towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm); five surface-to-air missile systems (9K35 Strela-10, 120mm) and 12 multiple-launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 122mm). The SMM saw the surface-to-air missile systems for the first time.
In violation of the relevant withdrawal line, the SMM observed the presence of a military truck towing an unidentified 122mm artillery piece near Debaltseve (“DPR”-controlled, 57km north-east of Donetsk). Additionally, on 4 January aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of five self-propelled artillery pieces in government-controlled areas north-east and east of Mariupol.
Beyond relevant withdrawal lines, but outside storage sites and holding areas, the SMM observed the presence of weapons and other hardware: one stationary anti-aircraft artillery system (2S6M, Tunguska) and one multipurpose armoured vehicle (MT-LB) mounted with four Strela-10 surface-to-air missiles near Artemivsk (government-controlled, 67km north of Donetsk) and a truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) positioned at a checkpoint near “LPR”-controlled Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk).
The SMM monitored the security situation in the area of Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol). At the last Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint at the south-western entrance to the village, the checkpoint commander told the SMM that about 15 vehicles were “travelling back and forth per day”. The SMM saw one civilian vehicle entering the village. In the vicinity of the checkpoint, the SMM observed approximately ten anti-tank mines, tied together by wire, placed along a side-track of the road. The SMM could not reach the village from the east and south, as armed “DPR” members denied the SMM access to the village*.
In “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (57km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed a calm situation, but an increased presence of armed men. The SMM spoke to 10 to 15 people who were queuing outside an office. The interlocutors said they were queuing for humanitarian assistance. The security guard outside the office did not allow the SMM to enter the premises*.
On 4 January, the SMM met “LPR” members in Luhansk city and Stakhanov (50km west of Luhansk), with the aim of facilitating resolution of water supply issues. According to the interlocutors, the water supply from government-controlled areas to those two areas had been cut off during the previous night. On the afternoon of that day, a representative of the “LPR” water company (Luhansk Vodakanal) informed the SMM that the water supply had been restored to the affected areas.
The SMM followed up on alleged tensions in relations between religious communities. In Ptycha village (148km north-east of Lviv, Rivne region) the SMM spoke to representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as well as the head of the village council, all of whom said that the situation in the village was currently stable. The interlocutors also stated that there were still no religious services at the church and that police officers were present at all times near the church (see SMM Daily Report 24 December 2015). The SMM also followed up on media reports of issues with land allocation for construction of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church monastery in Ridkivtsi village (14km north-east of Chernivtsi, in Novoselytsia district). The SMM spoke to four representatives of the village council (two men and two women) who said that it was only the local branch of the Svoboda party that had publicly stated it would oppose. The councillors said that the plans were not causing controversy in the village and emphasised that there were no tensions between the three Christian communities represented in the village (Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Greek Catholic Church and an evangelical church).
The SMM followed-up on the creation of a self-defence force in Kalanchak (96km south-east of Kherson, see SMM Daily Reports of 28 and 30 December 2015). The SMM met the head of the force and his deputy, who were elected by the members of the force, as well as another member (all men). According to the interlocutors, the recruitment process was on-going and currently there were 80 volunteers, they planned to register the organisation and members would be unarmed. The interlocutors emphasised that they had no political agenda and assessed that the situation in the district had already improved compared to late December 2015.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and Kyiv.
*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, damaged infrastructure, and the unpredictability of the situation in Donbas. “LPR” members continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring many areas alongside the border in parts of Luhansk region not controlled by the Government.
Denial of access:
- At a checkpoint near “DPR”-controlled Zaichenko (88km south of Donetsk, 4km east of Kominternove), armed persons again prevented the SMM from travelling further towards Kominternove, without giving any explanation (see SMM Daily Report 5 January 2016).
- At a “DPR” checkpoint near the south-western entrance to Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol), armed men again denied the SMM passage to the village (see SMM Daily Report 5 January 2016).
- In “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (57km north-east of Donetsk) a security guard denied the SMM access to an office.
- At the entrance of “LPR”-controlled Komsomolskyi (56km south-east of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped by an armed “LPR” member who demanded to know its destination. The SMM informed him of its plan and was told it was not allowed to proceed further due to an on-going ‘anti-terrorist’ operation in and around “LPR”-controlled Sverdlovsk (61km south-east of Luhansk). The SMM waited for 30 minutes and sought intervention by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination. The SMM noted traffic passing in both directions and observed that no other vehicle was stopped, even though approximately 50 other vehicles drove towards Sverdlovsk. The “LPR” armed member remained with the SMM the entire time.
* 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”.