Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 26 February 2016
This report is for media and the general public.
The SMM continued to observe a lower number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk compared to earlier in the week. The situation in Luhansk was relatively quiet, with many ceasefire violations related to live-fire exercises. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, and saw heavy weapons in violation of the withdrawal lines in areas not controlled by the Government in Donetsk region. It facilitated and monitored demining and repair works on both sides of the contact line and observed an exchange of detained persons. The SMM encountered freedom-of-movement restrictions, all in areas not under government control.* The Mission monitored two public gatherings in Kyiv and observed the spots where two statues had been toppled in Kharkiv region.
The SMM continued to observe a decreased number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared to earlier in the week. Late in the evening on 26 November, the SMM heard 57 undetermined explosions 5-10km north-west of Donetsk city centre. In government-controlled Krasnohorivka (21km west of Donetsk), the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 8km to the east-north-east and 3-4km to the south-south-east earlier on 26 February. While positioned in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) on the evening of 25 February, the SMM heard 26 undetermined explosions approximately 13km to the north. Towards Mariupol, in government-controlled Talakivka (17km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard five undetermined explosions approximately 10km south-east of its position, assessed as likely originating from a shooting range located in the area. The SMM also heard 35 undetermined explosions 10-15km to the north-west and north-east while positioned in “DPR”-controlled Dmytrivka (85km east of Donetsk).
In Luhansk region, the SMM noted a slight increase in non-training-related ceasefire violations compared to previous days. In the morning of 26 February, the SMM heard more than 20 explosions 15-20km west of its position in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk). Before noon, the SMM also heard six undetermined explosions 10-15km south-east of “LPR”-controlled Veselohorivka (64km west of Luhansk) and 20 undetermined explosions 20-25km south-west of “LPR”-controlled Miusynsk (62km south-west of Luhansk). The SMM saw and heard numerous ceasefire violations originating from “LPR” training areas in Shymshynivka (27km south-west of Luhansk), Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk), Myrne (28km south-west of Luhansk), Kruhlyk (31km south of Luhansk) and near Krasnyi Luch (55km south-west of Luhansk); as well as in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk).
Following up on reports of shelling, the SMM observed a damaged house in government‑controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk). The owner (a man in his late sixties) said the roof of the house had been destroyed late in the afternoon on 18 February. He explained that his neighbours had helped him extinguish the fire as the fire brigade had not been able to respond due to the shelling. The roof, which was being repaired by workers at the time of the SMM visit, had been completely destroyed.
The SMM continued to monitor 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 that the serial numbers of six tanks (T-64) did not match the inventory list and three towed guns (D-44, 85mm) were again missing (as observed since 14 January 2016). At one site, 14 tanks (T-64) were being loaded onto transporters. The SMM observed one transporter leave the site and move south.
Beyond the withdrawal lines, but outside storage sites, the SMM observed at an “LPR” training site in Shymshynivka at least five T-64 tanks and two T-72 tanks. At a firing range near “DPR“-controlled Ternove (56km east of Donetsk), the SMM observed four tanks. To the east of the firing range the SMM observed two rows of approximately 35-40 tanks (both T-72 and T-64). Later in the day the SMM observed two tanks, also to the east of the range, and one mortar of an undetermined calibre at the firing range. Near government-controlled Zlatoustivka (47km north-west of Mariupol), the SMM observed one T-64 tank being repaired on the roadside.
The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons as 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 it 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 that 12 multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS; BM-21 Grad, 122mm) were observed missing for the first time. Three other MLRS (9K57/BM-21 Uragan, 220mm) were also missing for the first time; two of the missing pieces were later observed at a “logistic centre” 6km away, where they had been taken for maintenance according to a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander. One new MLRS (9K57 Uragan, 220mm) was observed, and 18 howitzers (2A65 MSTA B, 152mm), six anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) and one MLRS (9K57 Uragan, 220mm) were present as previously observed.
In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed that eight Addendum-regulated mortars (seven PM-38, 120mm and one 2B11, 120mm) were missing, as had been observed since 4 February. Six previously observed self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), six MLRS (BM-12 Grad, 122mm), six towed artillery pieces (D-30, 122mm), and four anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) were present.
In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed two howitzers (D-30, 122mm) being towed east near “DPR”-controlled Khartsyzk (26km east of Donetsk). Also in violation of the withdrawal lines, in a suburb of Donetsk city, the SMM long range unmanned aerial vehicle observed one self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) and one tank with the hot barrel pointing north-north-west.
Beyond the respective withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed ten towed howitzers (D-30, 122mm) and seven self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) at an “LPR” training site in Uspenka.
In “DPR”-controlled Budonivskyi district (5km south-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM observed a man in a camouflage uniform. On his arm, he had a black patch, framed by a yellow line; on the patch, the word “Russia” was written in Russian above a Russian flag.
The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. The SMM monitored repair work to a gas pipeline near Marinka, to a water pipeline and electrical infrastructure in Trokhizbenka, and to high voltage pylons and a water pump in “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk).
On 26 February, near government-controlled Shchastia bridge (20km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed the exchange of three detained persons (men) from “LPR”-controlled area and six detained persons (four women) from government-controlled area in the presence of “LPR” members and representatives of the President of Ukraine and the Security Service of Ukraine, and Ukrainian officers from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC).
At checkpoints along the line of contact the SMM observed approximately 167 civilian vehicles and one bus waiting to travel toward the government-controlled area and 24 civilian vehicles waiting to leave the government-controlled area at a “DPR” checkpoint in Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk). At a government checkpoint in Berezove (31km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed approximately 180 civilian cars waiting to travel further into government-controlled area and four civilian cars waiting to travel in the opposite direction. At a government checkpoint in Novotroitske (36km south-west of Donetsk), a group of 20 civilians informed the SMM that the waiting time that day was only five minutes. The SMM also noted a significant decrease in lines at a checkpoint in Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol). At a government checkpoint near the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM observed approximately 300 people waiting to enter the government-controlled area and approximately 200 people waiting to travel in the opposite direction.
The SMM visited border crossing points in areas not controlled by the Government. In Marynivka (78km east of Donetsk), the SMM observed that there was no queue of vehicles, although five civilian trucks towing trailers full of coal were parked near the crossing point. Over 30 minutes the SMM monitored 14 vehicles travelling into the Russian Federation and six vehicles and one bus (“Rostov-on-Don to Donetsk”) travelling west. In Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed no vehicles or pedestrian traffic. In Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed 62 civilian vehicles, one bus (“Donetsk-Moscow”) and 47 civilian cargo trucks waiting to cross the border. Most of the vehicles at the three crossing points bore Ukrainian plate numbers, while several had Russian Federation plates and one cargo truck had Belarus plates. The SMM spoke with three drivers (men in their thirties-forties) who stated that they had been waiting for five hours. The SMM observed two minivans with armed men dressed in military-type attire at the crossing point.
The SMM observed two public gatherings in Kyiv related to anti-corruption initiatives. The SMM observed approximately 50 activists (mainly young people, 60% men) protesting against a law on electronic declarations of assets in front of the Presidential Administration. An organizer of the gathering told the SMM that the law does not foresee criminal liability for false declarations. The SMM observed a second gathering in front of the Ministry of Justice, where approximately 30 demonstrators (90% men, 30-60 years of age) claimed that a former politician was conducting illegal economic activity at a large market in Odessa region.
The SMM met with the Deputy Head Consul and First Secretary of the Romanian Consulate General in Odessa, who said that the Ukrainian Government plans to open a Romanian cultural centre and they indicated that they were happy with the treatment of members of the ethnic Romanian community in Odessa region.
Following up on media reports that a Lenin statue in Lyptsi (38 km north of Kharkiv) and a Karl Marx bust in Ruski Tishky (30 km north of Kharkiv) had been removed on the night of 24-25 February, the SMM found empty pedestals at both locations on 25 February. The SMM spoke with local law enforcement representatives from both settlements, who stated that the removal of the statues had not been officially planned and that the incidents were being investigated under charges of hooliganism. The SMM contacted a spokesperson for the Svoboda Party on 26 February who said the monuments had been toppled by members of the party’s youth wing.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, 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:
- While leaving “LPR”-controlled Chornukhyne (65km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM noted that route MO3 to “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk) was blocked by sandbags and a no-entry sign less than 2km before a training area. Three people wearing military-type uniforms told the SMM that for safety reasons the bridge had been closed two weeks before.
- A member of the “city administration” in “DPR”-controlled Snizhne (72km east of Donetsk) refused to meet with the SMM when they did not allow their OSCE identification to be photocopied.
- At an “LPR” checkpoint in Miusnysk, armed men refused to allow the SMM to continue to Donetsk region without paying a “custom tax” for three generators it was carrying. The SMM reported the situation to the JCCC and more than four hours later was forced to return to Luhansk.
- “DPR” members only allowed two of three monitors to enter a heavy weapons holding area.
* 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”.