Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 7 March 2016
The SMM observed a decrease in ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared to the previous day. The situation remained stable in Luhansk. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. It did not observe any live-fire exercises. The Mission facilitated and monitored demining and repair work on both sides of the contact line, and observed the fencing off of a mined area. The SMM encountered freedom-of-movement restrictions in areas not controlled by the Government.* It reached border crossing points in areas not controlled by the Government in Donetsk region. The Mission engaged with women active in their communities throughout Ukraine on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
The SMM observed numerous ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, noting lower levels of armed violence, in particular along the western and northern outskirts of Donetsk city. During the night of 6 March, while positioned in Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard 12 undetermined explosions 4-10km north-west of its position. Whilst at the Donetsk railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 6km north-west of Donetsk), during the day on 7 March, the SMM registered two undetermined explosions 3-5km north-north-east of its position
In government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), in the late hours of 6 March, the SMM heard five undetermined explosions, 11 bursts and single shots from a variety of weapons, including 120mm mortar, 73mm cannon (BMP-1), heavy machine-gun, automatic grenade launcher and small arms, all 2-5km to the south-east and south-west. On 7 March, from 07:25 to 07:29hrs, the SMM heard five undetermined blasts assessed as caused by 73mm canon (BMP1) 4-5km south-west of its position. The situation in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) remained volatile. On 6 March between 17:20 and 17:30hrs the SMM heard four artillery impacts assessed as caused by 152mm artillery 9.5km to the north-east. Between 18:30 and 22:30hrs the SMM registered six undetermined explosions, 44 impacts, eight explosions caused by outgoing fire and 79 bursts, from a variety of weapons, including 152mm artillery, 120mm and 82mm mortars, automatic grenade launcher, 30mm cannon, heavy machine-gun and small arms, all of which were heard at a distance of 6-9.5km west-north-west of the SMM’s position.
In Luhansk region, the situation remained relatively calm with a low number of ceasefire violations recorded, all of which in “LPR”-controlled areas. In Molodizhne (63km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 20 outgoing automatic-grenade-launcher rounds approximately 1.5km west of its position. In Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 15 explosions, of which at least six were assessed as impacts, to the west of its position.
In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage sites and noted that three mortars (one 2B9 Vasilek, 82mm, and two BM37, 82mm) were missing. It also observed additional weapons.
Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed 25 tanks in a static position at a training ground near “LPR”-controlled Kruhlyk (31km south-west of Luhansk).
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 “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed two self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) and six towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm).
Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed three anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) loaded on trucks heading east near government-controlled Krasnoarmiisk (55km north-west of Donetsk), and seven self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) in a static position at “LPR”-controlled Uspenka training area (23km south-west of Luhansk).
The SMM monitored training areas on both sides of the contact line. The SMM noted the absence of equipment and activity at the Myrne training area (“LPR”-controlled, 28km south-west of Luhansk), outside the security zone. At the Trokhizbenka training area (government-controlled, 33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM saw six controlled detonations of anti-tank shells. In “LPR”-controlled Lutuhyne (20km south-west of Luhansk), located outside the security zone, local residents (female, 25-30 years old) complained to the SMM about an increase of training conducted at a nearby range, which they said caused stress and fear to residents.
The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. In government-controlled Marinka (23km west-south-west of Donetsk) the SMM monitored on-going repairs to a gas pipeline. The technical manager of the works said that once repairs were completed approximately 1,000 homes and 47 apartment buildings in Marinka, 77 apartment buildings in Krasnohorivka (government-controlled, 21km west of Donetsk), and schools, hospitals and public buildings would benefit, while some commercial users would also be able to connect to the gas supply. The SMM also monitored repairs of the power grid conducted by an electricity company in the area of Artemove (government-controlled, 66km north-east of Donetsk). The SMM monitored the marking of an area and demining through controlled detonation conducted by the Ukrainian Emergency Service and repair works conducted by the same electricity company to power lines in the vicinity of the former Haharina coal mine in a government-controlled area on the western outskirts of Horlivka.
The SMM observed the fencing off of a mined area in government-controlled areas of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk), where a 70cm-high barbed-wire fence was installed on both sides of the road in the vicinity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint.
The SMM visited three non-government-controlled border crossing areas. The SMM noted a calm situation in “DPR”-controlled Dibrivka (92km south-east of Donetsk), Marynivka (78km east of Donetsk) and Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk). The SMM noted that vehicular traffic was lower than usual: at the Uspenka crossing point the SMM saw 14 civilian cars (eight of which had Russian Federation license plates and the rest Ukrainian) and four civilian trucks waiting to enter the Russian Federation; at the Marynivka crossing point, the SMM saw four civilian cars (all with Russian Federation license plates) waiting to enter the Russian Federation.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day the SMM engaged with women active in their communities throughout Ukraine. The SMM found that women were often quick to show initiative in the early days of the conflict, acting primarily on local level, providing assistance and support, and had also sustained and expanded their efforts since. For instance, in Chernivtsi, the co-founder of the non-governmental organization (NGO) ‘Bukovina for Ukrainian Army’ that provided material support to soldiers in the conflict zone, went on to establish another NGO - ‘Medical Co-ordination Centre’, which focused on the needs of demobilized personnel and their families, where her medical training proved to be a further asset.
The SMM’s conversations also revealed that a fundamental impediment for women’s broader participation in peacebuilding on both sides of the contact line remained social and economic insecurity and lack of information. For example, the 50 year-old deputy head of the district administration in government-controlled Artemivsk (67km north-east of Donetsk), who also leads the weekly civil-military co-ordination meeting, told the SMM that she believed that the key concerns for women were the same in both government and non-government controlled areas, most notably surviving amidst poor economic conditions and often-dire humanitarian situations.
Nonetheless, the SMM’s interlocutors conveyed a resilient attitude towards the challenges facing them, despite the many-faceted psychological trauma experienced by people affected by the conflict, which virtually all of the SMM’s 50 interlocutors mentioned. A school principal in “LPR”-controlled areas of Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk), for instance, told the SMM that there were not enough psychologists to support the children traumatised by shelling, but she made every effort to maintain some measure of normality in their lives. Similarly, an IDP from the Donbas told the SMM she had had to begin her life anew in a community that was not immediately welcoming in Lviv region, where she had fled to in June 2014. She had since co-founded an NGO - Civic Movement of Donbas IDPs, which she said had built trust with the local community and enabled better integration of IDPs, including through a joint project in which members of the NGO had participated in the cleaning of the local river together with the local administration in the village of Vorotsiv (20km west of Lviv).
On both sides of the contact line, all the women whom the SMM spoke to expressed their willingness to increase their participation in the broader peacebuilding processes. For instance, the representative of the Ukrainian Peacebuilding School in Odessa told the SMM that when women were involved in peace talks they focused on aspects of the conflict that were otherwise overlooked, and that women played a significant role in disseminating information within communities. In Kyiv region, the SMM met representatives of the NGO ‘Council of Mothers and Wives of Participants of ATO’, which was founded in 2014 by a woman whose son was among the first mobilized soldiers. The NGO, the interlocutors said, was dedicating its efforts to promoting dialogue across the contact line between the mothers of participants in the conflict, among affected communities, and educating affected families, including through legal support.
A male interlocutor from the NGO ‘Autonomous Resistance’ in Lviv told the SMM that women always had to do more in order to have their actions and competencies recognized. Despite all their efforts and practical contribution to sustaining life and building networks of trust and dialogue since the conflict began, the women the SMM spoke to often said they were still facing the challenge of social stereotypes of acceptable female roles.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk.
*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, and consistently require that the SMM submit patrol plans in advance.
Denial of access:
- Armed men stopped the SMM during a western approach of “DPR”-controlled Leninske (24km north-east of Mariupol) and told it to leave the area.
- Armed men stopped the SMM in “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol) and said it could not proceed further, citing the presence of landmines.
* 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.