Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 18 January 2016
This report is for media and the general public.
Whilst areas at and around Donetsk airport remained largely calm with one ceasefire violation recorded, the SMM continued to note violations elsewhere, in particular around Horlivka and Kominternove. The situation in Luhansk region remained relatively calm, with no ceasefire violations observed. The Mission experienced a freedom-of-movement restriction in Kominternove, where “DPR” members prevented it from observing alleged damage caused by shelling at a civilian house and conducting crater analysis*.
The SMM observed the security situation in Donbas. On 17 January, based in Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard between 18:30 and 22:47hrs  what it assessed as an intense exchange of fire occurring in the areas of Shyroka Balka (“DPR”-controlled, 34km north-east of Donetsk) and Ozerianivka (”DPR”-controlled, 35km north-east of Donetsk). After intermittent bursts of small arms, anti-grenade launchers and heavy machine-guns, at around 19:50hrs mortar and tank fire was heard, and rapidly the event expanded to include artillery, anti-aircraft guns and automatic cannons. The SMM saw some tracers and occasional muzzle flashes, and heard several impacts of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). During the shelling, Horlivka experienced an electricity blackout for about 1.5hrs.
Whilst at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station 6km north-west of Donetsk city centre at 11:37hrs, the Mission recorded one undetermined explosion in the area 3-5km south-west of its position.
The situation remained tense in and around Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol). While in the village, the SMM heard 12 undetermined explosions between 10:21 and 10:30hrs in an area south and south-west of its position. The SMM spoke with several local residents who stated that between 16:00 and 17:00hrs on 17 January shelling had occurred on the western edges of Kominternove. According to them, one house on Akhmatova Street had been damaged and one civilian had been injured. A “DPR” member present corroborated the information, adding that the injured man had been taken to hospital in Novoazovsk (“DPR”-controlled, 40km east of Mariupol) for treatment. He denied the SMM access to the damaged house to conduct crater analysis, citing security reasons.* At the hospital in Novoazovsk, the doctor told the SMM that the injured person from Kominternove had been wounded by shrapnel.
At a government-controlled checkpoint near Kominternove, the SMM saw the remnants of an anti-tank missile (100mm, probably a Fagot) that had hit a fortification block and impacts on the asphalt that were consistent with automatic grenade launcher fire (40mm), but could not ascertain the direction of fire. Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel at the checkpoint told the SMM that that their positions had come under fire on 17 January, at around 16:00hrs.
At a “DPR” checkpoint near Kominternove, the SMM saw impacts on the asphalt that were consistent with automatic grenade launcher fire from a westerly direction. “DPR” members told the SMM that their position had come under fire on 17 January at around 16:00hrs.
In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent weapons storages sites whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines. At one site, serial numbers of four tanks (T-64) did not match those provided in the inventory and the SMM observed that one tank (T-64), not listed in the inventory, was present. At another site, the SMM observed three mortars (2B9, 82mm) missing.
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 continued to visit locations known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even though they do not comply with the specific criteria set out for permanent storage sites in the 16 October 2015 notification.
The SMM also revisited a “DPR” permanent heavy weapons storage site that complied with the criteria outlined in the 16 October notification, and found that two heavy weapons, namely two towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm) that had been previously noted there were missing.
At a Ukrainian Armed Forces holding area beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed six anti-tank guns (Rapira, 100mm).
In areas beyond the withdrawal lines and outside storage sites or holding areas - in the areas of “LPR”-controlled Myrne and Uspenka (41km south-west and 23km south-west of Luhansk, respectively) the SMM observed 14 static self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) in one place and at least 17 tanks (T-64) returning to Myrne from the known training ranges and repositioning in pre-excavated positions.
The SMM observed impediments to the movement of civilians. Whilst on the “LPR”-controlled side of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed that the icy conditions on the bridge continue to make it difficult for pedestrians to cross safely, particularly over the makeshift wooden ramp. The SMM noted that sand was spread on the “LPR” side of the bridge, though conditions were still dangerously slippery. The SMM visited the mobile heating station on the “LPR”-controlled side of the bridge, and spoke with three staff members, who all confirmed that during the day an elderly man had broken his arm when he had fallen on the slippery wooden ramp. After treatment at the station, they said, the man had been transferred to Luhansk hospital.
The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs of critical infrastructure. After completion of demining activities at around 11:50hrs, the SMM observed electricians assessing damage to the power lines between Maiorsk (government-controlled, 45km north-east of Donetsk) and Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk). Two SMM mirror patrols were positioned in Kirove (government-controlled, 42km north-east of Donetsk) and Maiorsk in order to monitor the ceasefire. At around 12:22hrs whilst at the eastern edge of Kirove, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions, not related to demining activities. Due to security concerns, the SMM patrols had to depart from their positions at 13:33hrs before repair works were completed.
The SMM continued to monitor border crossing points not controlled by the Government. In “LPR”-controlled Izvaryne (53km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed a bus with civilian passengers, displaying Moscow as its departure point and Luhansk as its final destination. The SMM observed from 9:50 to 10:35hrs, at least 17 civilian vehicles with Ukrainian plates were waiting in a queue to cross into the Russian Federation, whereas 14 vehicles, the majority of which had Ukrainian plates, were entering Ukraine.
In Kyiv, the SMM monitored a protest organized by several non-governmental organisations at Maidan Square to call on state authorities to take measures in relation to events which took place in summer 2014 in Ilovaisk. About 25 men of various ages in military style clothing were calling for the “Ilovaisk case” to be submitted to court. The SMM observed at least three police officers. The protest ended peacefully after one hour, and no incidents were reported.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and Chernivtsi.
*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 “Kominternove, a “DPR” member denied the SMM access to a damaged house in order to conduct crater analysis, citing the presence of unexploded ordnance.
 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”.