Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 18 February 2016
This report is for media and the general public.
The SMM observed a number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It observed gunfire damage to a school. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. The SMM observed long lines at checkpoints close to the contact line.
The SMM observed a significant number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, mainly around Donetsk City. In a 40-minute period on the night of 17-18 February, the SMM heard, inter alia, 120 explosions and 41 bursts of heavy-machine-gun (HMG) fire originating 7-10km west to north-west of its position in Donetsk city centre. Around 3-5km north-east to north-west of its position at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard 95 artillery and mortar explosions, four bursts of anti-aircraft fire, 163 bursts and approximately 170 single shots of HMG and small‑arms fire, all between 09:40 and 17:00hrs on 18 February. The SMM heard 50 undetermined HMG bursts originating approximately 8-10km east of government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk). The SMM also heard ten undetermined explosions at an undetermined distance north-west of its position near government-controlled Sopyne (16km east of Mariupol).
The SMM observed a number of ceasefire violations in Luhansk region, mainly around government‑controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk) and “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk). Near Trokhizbenka, the SMM heard multiple bursts of HMG fire and undetermined explosions over the course of 90 minutes, from an area not corresponding with known training areas.
The SMM observed damage caused by gunfire. In “DPR”-controlled Staromykhailivka (16km west of Donetsk) the SMM examined damage to a school assessed to have been caused by a 30x165mm high explosive tracer bullet originating from north-north-west. The impact shattered a window and damaged interior walls. According to the school’s principal, the impact occurred at 22:30hrs on 17 February.
On the southern edge of government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk), the SMM analysed a crater and assessed it to have been caused by an 82mm mortar round, originating from east-north-east. According to Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers, the craters were the result of shelling on the night of 17 February. The SMM observed other craters around but could not analyse them due to booby-trap devices and unexploded ordnance in the area.
Following up on reports of a possible multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) strike on an open field around midnight on 16 February around government-controlled Pervomaiske (17km north-west of Donetsk), the following day the SMM photographed the craters using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Preliminary assessment suggested explosions consistent with MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm).
Following up on reports of people killed by a grenade explosion at Plekhanivska bus station in “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (12km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed broken glass and a pool of blood on the pavement in the vicinity of the bus station. A local businessperson informed the SMM that she had heard the explosion around 16:00hrs on 17 February, while “DPR” “police” informed that two intoxicated men had been handling a grenade at the bus station when it detonated, killing two people.
In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage sites whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines and noted seven anti-tank guns (five D-44 and two D-48, both 85mm) missing and one tank (T-64) whose serial number did not match the inventory list.
Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed six stationary howitzers (D‑30, 122mm) near “LPR”-controlled Myrne (28km south-west of Luhansk).
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 do 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 locations and observed: 12 anti-tank cannons (MT-12 100mm), 11 pieces of self‑propelled artillery (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm), 15 self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), and three MLRS (BM-21 Uragan 220mm), one of which was in a warehouse outside the holding area.
The SMM also revisited one “LPR” heavy weapons permanent storage site and noted that all weapons declared as withdrawn to the sites were present. The SMM observed also new weapons there.
The SMM continued to observe six anti-tank mines blocking access from “DPR”-controlled areas to the easternmost Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on H15 south-west of government-controlled Marinka (23km north-west of Donetsk). The SMM observed at least five mine signs along the eastern side of highway E50 in the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Panteleimonivka (26km north-east of Donetsk).
The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure including water pipes in the government-controlled part of Zolote (60km west of Luhansk) and high voltage power lines in government-controlled Trokhizbenka.
In the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (12km east-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed four “police” vehicles escorting 53 trucks with Russian Federation license plates, marked “Humanitarian Aid from the Russian Federation”. Thirty-one of the trucks headed toward “DPR”-controlled Donetsk, while 22 parked at a factory near Makiivka.
The village head of government-controlled Novomykhailivka (31km south-west of Donetsk) told the SMM that “police from Kyiv” has been checking national identity cards and proof‑of‑residence documentation of village residents. Three elderly village residents confirmed this, saying that police had entered their houses and yards, asking who lived in those houses and checking their registrations. They said that it passed without problems. The head of Konstiantynivka (government-controlled, 35km south-west of Donetsk) told the SMM that similar checks had been conducted in their village during the morning.
The SMM observed long lines at checkpoints close to the contact line. At the government-controlled Novotroitske checkpoint (36km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed approximately 160 pedestrians, 498 civilian vehicles and a bus waiting to leave the government-controlled areas and approximately 110 pedestrians and 123 civilian vehicles waiting to travel towards government-controlled areas. At the government-controlled Berezove checkpoint (31km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed approximately 60 pedestrians, 260 civilian vehicles and two trucks waiting to travel towards government-controlled areas and three buses waiting to leave government-controlled areas. At the “DPR”-controlled Olenivka checkpoint (23km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed 29 civilian vehicles and two buses waiting to travel towards “DPR”-controlled areas and 456 civilian vehicles waiting to leave the “DPR”-controlled area. At the “DPR”-controlled checkpoint in Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol) the SMM observed approximately 280 civilian vehicles and eight buses waiting to travel towards government-controlled areas. Several civilians told the SMM they had to wait five hours to pass the checkpoint.
At Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed about 150 people waiting to travel towards “LPR”-controlled areas and about 300 waiting to travel towards government‑controlled areas. There was a continuous flow of people in both directions. According to individuals waiting in line, the wait to cross was one to two hours.
At the Oktiabr checkpoint, the “DPR” “commander” present informed the SMM that some 3000 people and approximately 1000 vehicles go through the checkpoint now due to the closure of the Marinka checkpoint. Similarly, the “commander” of the “LPR” checkpoint at Stanytsia Luhanska bridge informed the SMM that following the closure of Marinka and Zaitseve checkpoints, around 3000 people cross the bridge every day. In Kyiv, a representative of the State Border Guard Service informed the SMM that traffic flow through the Novotroitske checkpoint had increased dramatically following the closure of the Marinka checkpoint, with 8000 people and 1500 vehicles crossing each day.
On 16-17 February the SMM observed that metal containers to be used as offices for the recently formed organization “Asker” had been installed next to the border guard and customs facilities at all three administrative boundary line crossing points (Kalanchak (91km south-east of Kherson), Chaplynka (90km south-east of Kherson) and Chonhar (162km south-east of Kherson). According to the border guards, Asker members will begin working jointly with the guards in a few days.
On 18 February, around 500 people (mainly young to middle-aged men) marched peacefully through Kyiv complaining about the lack of results in what they called the fight against Russian aggression in Ukraine. The march followed an “Anti-Occupation Forum” and was organized by the volunteer network Vilni Liudy. The SMM observed a small police presence.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk.
*Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfillment 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:
- The SMM was prevented from entering government-controlled Vodiane (19km east-north-east of Mariupol) by an improvised road block positioned at the eastern entrance of the village.
- Armed “DPR” members at a checkpoint at the southern entrance of Prymorske (“DPR”-controlled, 39km north-east of Mariupol) prevented the SMM from entering the village.
- The SMM was stopped for 32 minutes at a government checkpoint south of government-controlled Marinka.
- The SMM lost the GPS link with one of its mid-range UAVs as it was flying in the area of government‑controlled Nyzhnoteple (25km north of Luhansk). The UAV has not been recovered. A second UAV was lost while flying over south-western Avdiivka (government-controlled, 17km north of Donetsk) after the pilot and base station lost the connection with the UAV.
 All times in this report refer to Eastern European Time.