Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 28 February 2016
The SMM noted a lower number of ceasefire violations recorded compared to previous days in most areas of Donetsk region. It observed craters and damage to houses caused by recent shelling in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Mission noted a number of weapons missing from permanent storage sites and holding areas in both government- and non-government-controlled areas. The SMM was restricted in its freedom of movement in areas not controlled by the Government*. It facilitated and monitored repair works on both sides of the contact line and observed the handover of remains of a soldier. The SMM followed up on media reports on the blockade of Russian Federation-registered trucks at a border crossing point.
In Donetsk region the SMM observed numerous ceasefire violations, the number of which decreased comparing 27 February to 28 February, except for an area west of Donetsk city. On 27 February, from the observation post at “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM recorded 17 undetermined explosions, 24 bursts of 30mm cannon, heavy-machine-gun (HMG) and small-arms fire and 166 single shots of small-arms fire, mostly at locations ranging from the north-west to the north-east at 2-5km from the SMM’s position. Meanwhile, on the next day, from the same position, it heard ten undetermined explosions, 35 bursts and 42 single shots of HMG and small-arms fire, mostly at locations ranging from the west to the north-east at 2-5km from the SMM position.
In areas west of Donetsk city, on 27 February, the SMM heard six undetermined explosions at locations 3-4km west, 5km south-west and 7-8km north of its position in “DPR”-controlled Kuibyshevskyi district (5km west of Donetsk city centre), as well as two explosions (impacts) in government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk city). The next day, the SMM heard a total of 15 undetermined explosions 4km west-south-west, 5-8km north-east and 1-2km west-north-west of its position in “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka and Staromykhailivka (20km south-west and 15km west of Donetsk, respectively), as well as ten explosions 1-3km east-south-east of its position – including five impacts of 122mm artillery rounds and one impact of an 82mm mortar round – in government-controlled Krasnohorivka (21km west of Donetsk).
On 27 February, in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 11 undetermined explosions. On the same day, whilst in government-controlled parts of Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard two explosions of 120mm mortar rounds outgoing from a location 7-8km south-east and impacting 5km south-west of its position.
In areas east and north-east of Mariupol (102km south of Donetsk), the SMM recorded a number of ceasefire violations on 27 February; no ceasefire violations were recorded after the evening hours of 27 February. On 27 February, the SMM heard a total of six explosions while positioned in government-controlled Berdianske (18km east of Mariupol), Hnutove, Orlovske and Pavlopil (20, 23 and 26km north-east of Mariupol), as well as Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol).
Among a number of ceasefire violations recorded at various locations of Luhansk region, the SMM assessed a limited number of them as not being related to training. On 27 February, the SMM heard 17 undetermined explosions west and south-west of its position in government-controlled Orikhove (56km north-west of Luhansk), as well as three undetermined explosions 15km north-west of its position in “LPR”-controlled Lomuvatka (57km south-west of Luhansk). It also recorded what it assessed to be live-fire exercises in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-east of Luhansk), “LPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (9km west of Luhansk), Uspenka and Yasne (23 and 25km south-west of Luhansk, respectively).
The SMM continued to monitor the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures. The SMM revisited a Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage site whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines and noted 32 tanks (T-64) and one mortar (2B9, 82mm) missing for the first time, while the serial numbers of 27 additional tanks (T-64) present did not match the inventory list. At the same site, seven anti-tank guns (five D-44, 85mm and two D-48, 85mm) were absent (first noted missing on 5 February).
In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, on 26 February, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of one tank near government-controlled Lebedynske (16 north-east of Mariupol).
Beyond the withdrawal lines, but outside storage sites, the SMM observed 25 tanks (T64 and T72) at a shooting range near “DPR”-controlled Ternove (57km north-east of Donetsk) on 28 February. On 20 February, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of 20 tanks at a shooting range near “LPR”-controlled Perevalsk (38km south-west of Luhansk); it also revealed the presence of 12 towed howitzers there.
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 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 six self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) and 18 anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm). The SMM also noted a total of 24 anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) missing from two locations for the first time, and that one of the locations was abandoned.
In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed 19 towed howitzers (13 D-30,122mm and six 2A65 MSTA-B, 152mm), seven self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), two anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm), and nine Addendum-regulated mortars (PM38, 120mm). The SMM also noted as missing two towed howitzers (D-30, 122mm) and five Addendum-regulated mortars (PM-38, 120mm) (both first noted missing on 14 November 2015).
In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed eight multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS; BM-21 Grad, 122mm) in the vicinity of government-controlled Ivanivka (59km south-west of Donetsk) on 28 February.
The SMM observed the presence of other hardware: a multi-purpose light-armoured towing vehicle (MTLB) in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka on 28 February; three MTLBs and one infantry fighting vehicle (BMP-2) near “LPR”-controlled Kalynove (58km south-west of Luhansk) on 28 February. Aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of two armoured vehicles near “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol) on 26 February, and three armoured vehicles near “DPR”-controlled Ukrainske (36km north-east of Mariupol) on 26 February, and five armoured vehicles near “DPR”-controlled Nova Marivka (48km north-east of Mariupol) on 26 February.
The SMM observed craters and damage to houses caused by recent shelling on both sides of the contact line. On 27 February, in government-controlled parts of Zaitseve, the SMM observed eight relatively fresh craters close to houses and assessed three of them to have been caused by 152mm artillery. The representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) present said that these craters had caused by 122mm and 152mm artillery 15 February. On the same day, in Marinka, the SMM observed damage to a house consistent with impacts of HMG and small-arms fire originating from a south-easterly direction. The SMM also observed damage to roofs and chimneys of other houses in the area.
On 27 February, in “LPR”-controlled Molodizhne (62km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed 20 armed “LPR” members in full combat readiness. The next day, the SMM spoke to armed “LPR” members in Molodizhne who stated that at 16:00hrs the previous day, their position had been caught in automatic grenade launcher (AGS-17) fire several times and one “LPR” member had been severely wounded in his leg and chest. In an agricultural field close to “LPR” positions, the SMM observed three fresh craters assessed to have been caused by AGS-17 rounds originating from a north-westerly direction.
The SMM followed up on media reports that one Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier had been killed during shooting on 25 February in government-controlled Hranitne (47km north-east of Mariupol); in government-controlled Volnovakha (53km north of Mariupol) the representative of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the JCCC told the SMM that the soldier had been killed as a result of a bullet wound to his back.
The SMM facilitated and monitored the handover of remains of a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier, who had allegedly been killed in a mine field close to the contact line on 25 February. On 27 February, at government-controlled parts of the bridge in Shchastia (government-controlled 20km north of Luhansk), the SMM observed that representatives of the Afghan War Veterans Associations based in Luhansk city transferred the remains to a Ukrainian Armed Forces medical crew.
The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. On 27 February, the SMM monitored repair works to high voltage pylons and a water pump in “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk). On the same day, whilst in the town, the SMM heard four explosions (one outgoing and three undetermined) 2-3km west and 15km south-west of its position.
On 28 February, the SMM followed up on media reports that activists had blocked cargo trucks registered in the Russian Federation at the Porubne border crossing point (35km south of Chernivtsi) at the Ukrainian-Romanian border. At the entrance to the border crossing point, the SMM observed a tent with flags of the Svoboda party and Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor), as well as three men (aged 40-50) nearby the tent, who introduced themselves as representatives of the Svoboda party. The interlocutors told the SMM that they were monitoring the movement of Russian trucks at the border and taking pictures of Russian trucks entering Ukraine. The Mission also observed a long queue of 80 trucks (of which seven had Russian Federation license plates) waiting to cross into Romania.
Following up on media reports that premises of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) had been set on fire on the night of 21-22 February in Mykolaiv (36km south of Lviv), on 27 February the SMM visited the location. It saw burnt interior walls of the central church and partially burnt interior and exterior walls of another building. The SMM also observed that parishioners and residents (all men aged in 30-40) were conducting repair works to the interior walls of the central building. The residents, who were repairing, told the SMM that five or six bottles containing flammable liquid had been found next to the church door.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, 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:
- On 28 February, at a checkpoint in “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol), armed men did not allow the SMM to proceed further toward the east, citing an order from their superior.
- On 27 February, on the main road between “LPR”-controlled Uspenka and Yasne two armed men stopped the SMM and demanded to see its patrol plan. The SMM was only allowed to proceed after showing it.
- On 28 February, at a checkpoint in “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr, an armed man delayed the SMM for 25 minutes. He asked the SMM to show its patrol plan and stated that a “permit” was needed to proceed.
- On 27 February, armed men made the SMM wait for 54 minutes, before allowing it to access a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, explaining they were waiting for permission from their superior.
- On 28 February, at a checkpoint in “DPR”-controlled Staromykhailivka (19km west of Donetsk), “DPR” members delayed the SMM for 23 minutes.
* 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”.
 All times in this report refer to Eastern European Time.