Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 17 January 2016
This report is for media and the general public.
Whilst areas at and around Donetsk airport remained largely calm, the SMM continued to note ceasefire violations elsewhere, in particular in areas north-east of Mariupol, and around Horlivka. An SMM patrol came under small-arms fire in Marinka. The Mission experienced multiple freedom-of-movement restrictions*, mainly in areas not controlled by the Government.
The SMM observed the security situation in Donbas. At a “DPR”-controlled location 6km north-west of Donetsk city centre between 9:30 and 14:30hrs on 17 January, the Mission heard four undetermined explosions 2.5-3.5km to the north-north-west.
The situation remained tense in and around “DPR”-controlled Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol). Positioned immediately south-west of the village between 11:45 and 11:57hrs on 16 January, the SMM heard 30-35 single shots of small-arms and three bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire to the west-south-west. At 12:53hrs, the SMM heard one undetermined explosion and at 13:22hrs, three undetermined explosions, 10-15km to the south-south-west. The following day at the same position, the SMM heard one shot of small-arms 1km to the south. Also on 17 January – positioned on the outskirts of nearby “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol) – the SMM heard one explosion to the south-west. An armed “DPR” member present told the SMM that the explosion had been caused by a tank round impacting in Kominternove. Whilst in government-controlled Chermalyk (31km north-east of Mariupol) at 11:14hrs, the monitors heard three single shots of small-arms to the east.
In “DPR”-controlled Telmanove (50km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM on 16 January observed that part of the hospital building was occupied by armed “DPR” members, and sandbags and ammunition boxes were placed around the entrance and at windows. The Mission monitors noted that another building in the town was similarly fortified.
In government-controlled Novohryhorivka (53km north of Mariupol), the SMM on 16 January heard two undetermined explosions 5-7km to the south-east.
On the northern outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk) between 15:02 and 15:04hrs on 16 January, the SMM heard 10 undetermined explosions 8-10km to the north-west.
In “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) between 12:10 and 12:50hrs on 16 January, the SMM heard several bursts of small-arms fire 2km to the west.
In Luhansk region, the SMM observed a number of ceasefire violations: on 16 January, three explosions and multiple bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire near “LPR”-controlled Myrne (41km south-west of Luhansk), and 30 explosions near “LPR”-controlled Alchevsk (40km west of Luhansk), both of which it assessed as training related; and, on 17 January, two small explosions near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk).
On 16 January, a five-person SMM patrol – facilitating the repair of critical infrastructure in government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk), 1.5km from the contact line – heard what it assessed to have been one or two small-arms rounds. Having left the area, the SMM noted that the rear window in one of its vehicles was shattered. No bullets were found in the trunk, which is separated from the rest of the vehicle by armoured plating. (See Spot Report 16 January 2016.)
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 2015 notification.
The SMM revisited locations 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 2015 notification.
In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such holding areas and observed: 36 towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm), 18 towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm), 24 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS, 9K51/BM-21 Grad, 122mm), 21 anti-tank guns (15 2A29/T-12 Rapira, 100mm and six 2A19/T-12 Rapira, 100mm), six howitzers (2C1 Gvozdika, 122mm), 11 howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm), and two Addendum-regulated mortars (2B9 Vasilyok, 82mm). In total, three towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm) and five MLRS (9K51/BM-21 Grad, 122mm) were missing from these sites.
In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such holding areas and observed: two towed artillery pieces (122mm, D-30), five self–propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvodzika, 122mm), two towed howitzers (2A29/MT-12 Rapira, 100mm), and nine MLRS (9K51/BM-21 Grad, 122mm). In total, three self-propelled artillery pieces (2S1 Gvodzika, 122mm) and two MLRS (9K51/BM-21 Grad, 122mm) were missing from these sites.
The SMM also noted the presence of 10 Addendum-regulated mortars (nine PM-38, 120mm, and one 2B11, 120mm), and an additional five 120mm mortars being towed by military-type cargo trucks – neither in a heavy weapons holding area nor a permanent storage site – in “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines.
The SMM monitored the presence of other hardware. It observed: on 16 January seven infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-1), two armoured personnel carriers (APC, MT-LB), one mounted with a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun, and a military-type truck in “LPR”-controlled Khoroshe (35km west of Luhansk); on 16 January five infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-2) and four MT-LBs near “DPR”-controlled Khartsyzk (26km east-north-east of Donetsk); on 16 January three military trucks, one of which was towing a ZU-23 anti-aircraft gun near government-controlled Viktorivka (70km west of Luhansk); on 17 January seven BMP-2s; six MT-LBs, one with a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun, two with APC (BTR-80) towers and 14.5mm machine guns; four trucks (three with empty mortar towing frames); and, one military-type truck with a trench-digging excavator, near “LPR”-controlled Yurivka (26km south-west of Luhansk).
The “chief of police” in “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (57km west of Luhansk) told the SMM on 16 January that an unidentified assailant armed with an assault rifle had shot three elderly people, killing one, near the town on 13 January. He said the three people had been attacked between government and “LPR” checkpoints along the contact line, having just crossed from a government-controlled area where they had collected their pensions.
The SMM continued to monitor border crossing points not controlled by the Government. In “LPR”-controlled Dovzhanske (84km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM on 16 January observed over a 15-minute period one bus leaving Ukraine and no vehicles entering. In “DPR”-controlled Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), on 16 January it observed over a five-minute period no vehicles crossing the border. In “DPR”-controlled Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk) on 17 January, the SMM observed over a 20-minute period six Ukrainian-registered civilian cars, 10 male and female pedestrians and one bus arriving from the Russian Federation, whilst four civilian vehicles, 12 pedestrians and 23 civilian trucks – most of them bearing Ukrainian number plates – waited to cross into the Russian Federation. A truck driver told the SMM that crossing procedures had been simplified following the resolution of technical problems a few weeks ago. In “DPR”-controlled Marynivka (78km east of Donetsk), the SMM on 17 January observed over a 10-minute period three cars leaving Ukraine.
On 16 January at the activists’ tent settlement north of the Chonhar crossing point (167km south-east of Kherson) at the administrative boundary line between Kherson region and Crimea, one of the “Crimean blockade” leaders told the SMM that the activists would withdraw from the checkpoints that day. He said, however, a presence would be maintained to “oversee” and ensure border guards and customs officers enforced legally-mandated limits on the amount of goods entering Crimea. On 17 January, the SMM observed no blockade at the Kalanchak crossing point (95km south-east of Kherson). Three “blockade” activists sitting in a civilian car parked close to the crossing point (outside of the border guard-controlled area) told the SMM that they had received instructions from their superiors earlier that day to suspend all activities at the checkpoints and to only monitor the situation at the crossing point. Later that day, the SMM observed a similar situation at the Chaplynka crossing point (90km south-east of Kherson).
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernivtsi, 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:
- In “DPR”-controlled Kominternove (29km north-east of Mariupol), an armed “DPR” member on 16 January refused to allow the SMM to proceed to “DPR”-controlled Vodiane (19km east-north-east of Mariupol), saying there was on-going shooting in the area.
- At a “DPR checkpoint south-west of “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol), armed “DPR” members on 17 January refused to allow the SMM to proceed to “DPR”-controlled Telmanove (50km north-east of Mariupol), saying “authorization” was required.
- At a live-fire training range near “LPR”-controlled Myrne, armed “LPR” members on 16 January denied the SMM access.
- Armed “LPR” members at a checkpoint in “LPR”- controlled Kalynove (58km west of Luhansk) on 17 January refused to allow the SMM to proceed, saying the SMM could only monitor within the boundaries of the town.
- At a “DPR checkpoint west of “DPR”-controlled of Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol), armed “DPR” members delayed the SMM for 18 minutes, asking that the SMM monitors present their IDs and photographing the IDs.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel on 16 January delayed the SMM at a checkpoint near government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) for 20 minutes, initially waiting for their commander to arrive and then seeking approval from superiors by radio.
 All times are in Eastern European Time unless otherwise specified.
* 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”.