Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 13 March 2016
This report is for the media and general public.
In Donetsk region, the SMM continued to observe numerous ceasefire violations, while their number decreased in Donetsk city compared to the number in the previous reporting period. The situation remained stable in Luhansk. Repair works to the gas pipeline in Marinka were suspended due to security concerns. The Mission reached border crossing points in areas not controlled by the Government in both Luhansk and Donetsk regions. It was restricted in its freedom of movement, mostly in areas not controlled by the Government, including in border areas.*
The SMM observed numerous ceasefire violations in Donetsk region. Whilst in Donetsk city in the evening hours of 11 March, the SMM heard seven explosions (four outgoing and three undetermined explosions) 7-10km north-west and north-north-west of its position. The next day, whilst at the Donetsk central railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard more than 132 undetermined explosions, 45 bursts of 30mm cannon (BMP-2), heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire at locations ranging from north-west to east-north-east at 2-8km from its position. On the evening of the same day, while in Donetsk city centre, the SMM recorded one undetermined explosion 7-10km north-west of its position. On 13 March, whilst at the Donetsk railway station, the SMM heard 16 undetermined explosions, 32 bursts of heavy- and light- machine-gun fire, 11 single shots of small arms, mostly at locations ranging from the north to the west at 3-6km from its position.
During the evening of 11 March, whilst in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 103 impacts of automatic grenade launcher rounds, two explosions caused by outgoing rounds (73mm cannon or anti-tank gun), 57 bursts and intermittent single shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-3km south-south-east of its position, as well as 18 impacts (automatic grenade launcher,) 42 bursts and intermittent single shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 4-5km south-west of its position. During afternoon/evening hours of 12 March, in Svitlodarsk, the SMM recorded 16 impacts of automatic grenade launcher rounds and anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG-7) rounds, four explosions caused by outgoing rounds of cannon fire (BMP-1, 73mm and BMP-2, 30mm), 39 bursts and intermittent single shots of heavy-machine-gun fire and small-arms fire 2-3km south-south-east, as well as 25 impacts of automatic grenade launcher rounds and anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG-7) rounds, and nine bursts and intermittent single shots of heavy-machine-gun fire and small-arms fire 4-5km south-west of its position.
In the area between government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) and “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM continued to record numerous ceasefire violations. On 12 March, whilst in Avdiivka, the SMM heard 42 explosions consistent with 82mm and 120mm mortar round impacts and exchange of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 2-3km south-east of its position. The SMM noted a temporary decrease of firing incidents between 11:40 and 12:10hrs following the intervention of Ukrainian and Russian Federation Armed Forces JCCC officers at the request of the SMM. On the same day, in Yasynuvata, the SMM heard 157 undetermined explosions and two impacts, mostly 1-5km north-north-west of its position. On 13 March, whilst in Avdiivka, the SMM saw and heard a total of 23 impacts of 120 and 82mm mortar rounds and automatic grenade launcher rounds at locations 3-7km east-south-east of its position. In Yasynuvata, the SMM heard over 305 undetermined explosions, among others, caused by mortar, tank and grenade launcher fire, and multiple bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, as well as continuous small-arms fire 2-3km west of its position.
In Luhansk region, the situation remained relatively calm with a low number of ceasefire violations recorded. On 12 March, whilst in “LPR”-controlled parts of Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard one loud undetermined explosion 5km north-north-west of its position. On 13 March, while in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 200-250 bursts of small-arms fire 1km west of its position. On 13 March, on the western edge of “LPR”-controlled Novooleksandrivka (65km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 50-60 bursts of small-arms fire originating from several locations 600-700m west of its position, while operating its mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over the area. The mini-UAV did not sustain any damage.
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 observed that 11 tanks (two T-72 and nine T-64) and three mortars (2B9M, 82mm) were missing, and one site was still abandoned.
The SMM also revisited “DPR” permanent storage sites whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines and observed that all weapons previously verified as withdrawn to those sites were present.
In violation of respective withdrawal lines, on 12 March, the SMM observed one tank (T-64) near government-controlled Berezove (31km south-west of Donetsk), as well as, what it assessed to be parts of 82mm mortars, which were covered with tree branches near “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (20km south-west of Donetsk).
Beyond the respective withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed: on 12 March, approximately 23 tanks (T-72) in the vicinity of a training ground near “DPR”-controlled Ternove (57km east of Donetsk); on 13 March, one tank near “DPR”-controlled Shakhtarsk (50km east of Donetsk).
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 20 towed howitzers (12 2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm, and eight 2A65 Msta-B, 152mm) and 17 anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm). It also noted 26 anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) and three multiple-launch rocket system (12 BM-21 Grad, 122mm) missing. The SMM visited one such area for the first time and observed 12 self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm). Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel denied the SMM access to one area*.
In violation of respective withdrawal lines, on 12 March, the SMM observed one self-propelled howitzer (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) in the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Ternove.
The SMM also observed the presence of other hardware. On 12 March, three armoured personnel carriers (APCs: BTR-80), two infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs: BMP-2) and one armoured reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) near government-controlled Berezove; one armoured reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) near government-controlled Olhynka (40km south-west of Donetsk). On 13 March, one IFV (BMP-1) near government-controlled Nevelske (18km north-west of Donetsk) and one IFV (BMP-1) near Trokhizbenka. On 8 March, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of two armoured vehicles near “DPR”-controlled Donetsk airport (8km north-west of Donetsk city centre) and four armoured vehicles near Yasynuvata. On 9 March, it also revealed the presence of seven armoured vehicles in the areas of government-controlled Krasnohorivka and “DPR”-controlled Staromykhailivka (21 and 16km west of Donetsk, respectively), and four armoured vehicles near “DPR”-controlled Petrovskyi district (20km south-west of Donetsk city centre).
The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. On 12 March, in co-ordination with Ukrainian and Russian Federation Armed Forces JCCC officers, the SMM monitored on-going repair works to gas pipelines in government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk). Whilst there, in the morning hours, the SMM heard ten single shots of small-arms fire and ten bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire 1-2km south-east of its position. Due to on-going shooting in the area, repair work was temporarily halted.
The SMM monitored a training area. On 11 March, at a firing range in government-controlled Chmyrivka (86km north-west of Luhansk) – outside the security zone, the SMM observed the relatively fresh remains of ammunition consistent with light weapons (5.45mm and 7.62mm) and machine-guns, as well as remains from grenade launchers (RPG-7 and PRG-26). The SMM also noted the presence of unexploded ordnance at the site.
The SMM followed up on reports of shelling and conducted crater analysis in government-controlled Novotoshkivske (52km west of Luhansk). On 13 March, the SMM saw two fresh craters near the Ukrainian Armed Forces positions assessed as impacts of 82mm mortar rounds fired from the south-east. The Ukrainian Armed Forces commander present told the SMM that mortar shelling had occurred during early hours of the day and there were no casualties.
The SMM monitored border areas not controlled by the Government and observed a calm situation. The SMM visited border crossing points in Ulianivske and Uspenka (62 and 73km south-east of Donetsk, respectively), Novoazovsk (40km east of Mariupol), and Chervonopartyzansk (67km south-east of Luhansk) on 12 March, as well as Marynivka (78km east of Donetsk), Novoazovsk, Novoborovytsi (80km south of Luhansk), Izvaryne and Verkhnoharasymivka (53 and 57km south-east of Luhansk, respectively) on 13 March. On 12 March, at the Uspenka border crossing point, the SMM observed 69 civilian vehicles and 22 commercial trucks (approximately ten per cent of the vehicles and three trucks had Russian Federation license plates and others had Ukrainian license plates) waiting to cross into the Russian Federation. A woman in her fifties told the SMM that she had been queuing for nine hours.
The SMM monitored the situation of civilians in the vicinity of the contact line. On 12 March, at a checkpoint on the government-controlled side of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed a queue of 400-450 people waiting to travel towards government-controlled areas and a queue of 350-400 people in the opposite direction.
On 12 March, in “LPR”-controlled Velyka Verhunka (4km north-east of Luhansk city centre), four residents (one man and three women in their sixties) told the SMM that a freight train loaded with coal ran three times per day from “LPR”-controlled areas to government-controlled area, passing through the railway bridge near Stanytsia Luhanska. In “LPR”-controlled Chervonyi Yar (7km north-east of Luhansk city centre), two armed “LPR” members confirmed this to the SMM.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Chernivtsi, 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, and consistently demand to review SMM patrol plans.
Denial of access:
- On 12 March, in “DPR-controlled Ternove (57km east of Donetsk), armed men denied the SMM access to a military-type compound containing 23 tanks (T-72) and demanded to leave the area immediately.
- On 12 March, in “LPR”-controlled Vlasivka (53km south-east of Luhansk), two “LPR” members stopped the SMM and asked to leave the border areas, citing orders from “their superiors”. The SMM was thus unable to visit Krasnodarskyi border crossing point (57km south-east of Luhansk).
- On 13 March, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel denied the SMM access to a heavy weapons holding area, referring to the absence of the commander.
- On 13 March at a checkpoint between “LPR”-controlled Pryshyb and Krasnyi Lyman (34 and 30km north-west of Luhansk), armed men requested the SMM to show its patrol plan and asked about the purpose of its visit. The SMM was allowed to proceed after providing requested information.
- On 13 March, at a checkpoint near “LPR”-controlled Smile (32km north-west of Luhansk), an armed man checked the SMM’s patrol plan before allowing it to proceed.
* 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.