Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 16 March 2016
This report is for the media and general public.
The SMM continued to observe ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. The SMM monitored a border area not controlled by the Government where it observed long lines of cars and trucks. The SMM was restricted in its freedom of movement in areas not controlled by the Government. The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. In Kyiv and Odessa, the SMM observed gatherings marking the second anniversary of the annexation of Crimea.
The SMM observed a number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region. During the evening of 15 March the SMM heard eight undetermined explosions between 19:52 and 20:01hrs at locations 7-10km north-west of its position in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre.
On 16 March, between 07:27 and 12:55hrs, while positioned at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard 99 explosions caused by mortar and automatic grenade launcher rounds assessed as 82mm or lesser, 54 artillery or mortar explosions assessed as 120mm or higher, and 11 bursts (between four and 20 rounds each) of small-arms and anti-aircraft fire 4-10km north-north-east of its position.
Together with Voda Donbassa workers and the Russian Federation Armed Forces representative from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), the SMM was not able to access a local water filtration station near Yasynuvata (“DPR”-controlled area 16km north-east of Donetsk) due to shelling and gunfire. While the JCCC and the Voda Donbassa workers left the area, the SMM positioned themselves on the H20 road 16km west of Yasynuvata north-north east of Donetsk, where between 7:30 and 8:25hrs, the SMM heard 108 undetermined explosions including mortar and anti-aircraft fire and continuous bursts and single shots from heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire at locations 3-6km west-north-west of its position.
Whilst in Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard six-seven rounds of small-arms fire and ten explosions assessed as automatic grenade launcher 2-3km north-north-west. On 15 March, between 18:37 and 19:43hrs, the SMM camera in Shyrokyne recorded 18 firing incidents in the area of Kominternove and at 00:53hrs it recorded one burst of small-arms and light-weapons-fire in the same area.
On 16 March, the SMM observed a Ukrainian Armed Forces unit conducting a live-fire exercise at the government-controlled Mykolaivka military training area (67km west of Luhansk), just outside the security zone, involving small arms and heavy machine-guns.
Positioned at “LPR”-controlled parts 2km north of Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk) at 11:32hrs the SMM heard one loud explosion caused by an impact, assessed as having occurred approximately 10km to the south-west. On the eastern edge of government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), Ukrainian Armed Forces member told the SMM that at 11:32hrs he had seen and heard a loud explosion approximately 700m south of the checkpoint originating from the west. At 12:38hrs, at an “LPR” fortified position in the vicinity of “LPR”-controlled Kalynove-Borschuvate (61km west of Luhansk), the SMM observed a burnt and destroyed truck which was still smouldering. It also noted that the truck had two hit marks consistent with anti-tank missiles. The “LPR” “commander” present told the SMM the truck had been hit by two anti-tank missiles at 12:05hrs, seriously injuring the sole occupant, a female medic, and lightly injuring other “LPR” armed personnel. At 13:27hrs, having left the “LPR” position and approximately 1.65km east of it, the SMM heard five explosions and what it assessed as small-arms fire at the same distance to the west. Upon returning to the “LPR” position, the SMM observed a burning civilian van adjacent to the previously destroyed truck. It noted that the vehicle, which had previously escorted the SMM to the “LPR” fortified position, had been destroyed by what appeared to be a round impact on the top. It also observed its roof on the ground more than 5m away from it, and burnt metal pieces and debris from the van nearby.
In relation to 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 observed that eight tanks (T-72) and two mortars (2B9, 82mm) were missing.
In violation of the respective withdrawal line, on 15 March, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of a tank near in government-controlled Avdiivka 17km north 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 line, the SMM revisited such locations and observed: 16 self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), 18 towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm), 24 anti-tank guns (MT12 Rapira, 100mm), 24 Addendum-regulated mortars (22 2B11, 120mm and two PM38, 120mm – the latter two were observed for the first time) and ten tanks (T-64), which were observed for the first time. It also noted 11 Addendum-regulated mortars (six 2B11,120mm, three PM-38, 120mm and two 2B9, 82mm) missing from one of these areas.
In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such a location 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: one self-propelled howitzer (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) loaded on a transporter near government-controlled Sievierodonetsk (74km north-west of Luhansk) and 12 pieces of self-propelled and towed howitzers near “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk).
The SMM observed the presence of other hardware: near government-controlled Orlivka (20km north-west of Donetsk), six infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) (BMP-2) heading toward Avdiivka; near government-controlled Heivka (26km north-west of Luhansk) two IFVs (BMP-1);in the vicinity of Kalynove-Borschuvate, one multi-purpose light- armoured towing vehicle (MTLB); near government-controlled Nyzhnoteple (25km north of Luhansk) SMM also observed one armoured personnel carrier (BTR-70).
The SMM conducted crater analysis on both sides of the contact line. In “LPR”-controlled Novooleksandrivka (65km west of Luhansk). It observed two meters from a house one impact site that was approximately 120mm wide, 30cm deep. The SMM assessed it to be from an 82mm mortar. The SMM also observed four impact points and damage to grave stones at a cemetery. Based on crater analysis of the impact sites, the SMM assessed that the craters were caused by 40mm automatic grenade launcher. In government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) the SMM visited a Ukrainian Armed Forces unit position close to the contact line where they observed 19 fresh craters 1.5 meters in diameter. From their analysis and the remains of ammunition found at the site, the SMM assessed the crater was caused by an 82mm mortar round fired from an easterly direction.
The SMM monitored a border area not controlled by the Government. At the border crossing point in Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk) the SMM counted 55 trucks and 40 civilian cars waiting to cross the border to the Russian Federation. Ninety per cent of the trucks had Ukrainian plates.
The SMM observed long lines at checkpoints close to the contact line. In the morning, at the first Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on highway H-15 near government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk) SMM observed approximately 550 civilian cars heading west towards government-controlled areas while 470 civilian cars were heading in the opposite direction. The SMM observed approximately 100 civilians (mostly men) waiting in line.
In the afternoon at the second government checkpoint on highway H-15 near Marinka the SMM observed 175 civilian cars leaving the government-controlled area and 338 civilian cars also travelling east. At 18:45hrs at the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Maiorsk (45km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed 270 civilian cars heading south and 130 vehicles heading north toward government-controlled areas.
In Kyiv and Odessa, the SMM monitored protests against the annexation of Crimea on the occasion of its second anniversary. In Kyiv, 30 people (mostly women aged between 20 and 30 years old) stood in silent protest in Sofiiska Square. No police were observed. In Odessa, the SMM monitored a protest of 45 people (men and women of different ages) outside the Russian Federation General Consulate. Some carried the national flag and that of the Batkivshchyna party. Some protestors shouted slogans including “Crimea is Ukraine” and “Free Nadiya Savchenko”. Ten National Guard personnel observed proceedings. The crowd dispersed peacefully.
*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:
- When entering the road near the shooting range in Ternove (“DPR” –controlled, 60km east of Donetsk), “DPR” members stopped the SMM by erecting a temporary “military police” checkpoint right at SMM’s arrival. The “DPR” members denied access to SMM stating they were told to close the road. The SMM contacted JCCC but did not receive access. After waiting for 45 minutes SMM took an alternate route. After about 1km SMM pulled off the road and observed the “DPR” members leaving the temporary checkpoint. The SMM continued travelling on the alternate route.
- At a checkpoint near “LPR” controlled Sokilnyky (39km north-west of Luhansk) two armed men stopped the SMM. After checking the patrol plan, the checkpoint commander did not allow the SMM to enter the village citing security reasons.
- On 16 March armed “LPR” members delayed the SMM for 40 minutes when returning on foot from government-controlled area over the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk). The SMM asked for assistance from the JCCC. The “LPR” members first demanded to take pictures of the SMM ID cards before allowing them to cross the bridge back into the area not controlled by the Government.
* 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 are in Eastern European Time.