Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 8 April 2016
This report is for media and the general public.
In Donetsk region, the SMM observed a significantly higher number of ceasefire violations. In Luhansk region a low number of ceasefire violations were recorded. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons and noted weapons in violation. It observed craters and other damage caused by shelling. The SMM noted that the only entry-exit checkpoint for civilians in Luhansk region, at Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, was closed. The Mission visited two border crossing points in areas not controlled by the Government, despite denials of access in these areas. It encountered other freedom-of-movement restrictions in non-government-controlled areas.* The SMM monitored a court hearing and sentencing in Kyiv, as well as a public demonstration outside the Presidential Administration building.
The SMM did not receive any report of follow-up or indication of rapid response by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) regarding the two separate security incidents of 8 April, in which a bullet hit an SMM vehicle and an SMM monitor was threatened at gunpoint (see SMM Spot Report 8 April).
In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded a sharp increase in the overall number of ceasefire violations, as compared with the previous day. In the evening hours of 7 April whilst positioned at Donetsk city centre, the SMM registered 105 undetermined explosions and six bursts of small-arms fire at locations ranging from 3-7km north and north-north-west of its position. Whilst at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre) during the day, the SMM heard, 156 undetermined explosions, 47 outgoing explosions assessed as caused by multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), two bursts and 61 airbursts of anti-aircraft-gun, more than 40 shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire and five impacts all at locations ranging from 2-10km north, north-north-east, north-east, south-south-west and west of its position.
Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) during the day, the SMM heard a total of 979 undetermined explosions, over 50 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire and more than 350 shots of small-arms fire, and two bursts of anti-aircraft-gun (ZU-23, 23mm) mostly at locations 500m-3km south-west, west and north-west of its position. Whilst in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) during the day, the SMM heard 52 explosions and 30 airbursts of 82 and 120mm mortar rounds, five explosions of 152mm artillery fire, 65 impacts of 82 and 120mm mortar rounds, eight impacts of automatic grenade launcher rounds, and intermittent small-arms fire at locations 2-10km north, north-east, east south-east and south of its position.
During the evening hours of 7 April, whilst in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard at least 67 undetermined explosions, 21 shots and 13 bursts of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, one burst of anti-aircraft-gun (ZU-23, 23mm) and at least 12 explosions of automatic grenade launcher rounds. While in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard over 524 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, 125 rounds of anti-aircraft-gun fire (ZU-23, 23mm), five explosions of automatic grenade launcher rounds and six explosions assessed as caused by 82mm mortar rounds 2-10km north, south-east, south-west and north-west of its position, in about 90 minutes during the evening hours of 7 April.
In Luhansk region, the situation remained relatively calm with a low number of ceasefire violations recorded, which included nine explosions assessed as live-fire training in areas outside the security zone. During the night of 7-8 April, whilst in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM heard eight undetermined explosions assessed as caused by mortar rounds and two shots of small-arms fire at an unknown distance south-east of its position.
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 all weapons previously verified as withdrawn to that site were present.
The SMM observed the removal of two previously withdrawn tanks (T-72, 125mm) from a storage site and then their relocation to Luhansk city (“LPR”-controlled), in violation of withdrawal lines.
Beyond withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, on 7 April, aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence of three tanks in the area of “DPR”-controlled Khartsyzk (26km north-east of Donetsk).
The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons 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 respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed four anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm), 12 MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm), 15 self-propelled howitzers (five 2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm; ten 2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm), and 26 towed howitzers (D-20, 152mm).
In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed six self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), nine MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm), and one Addendum-regulated mortar (PM-38, 120mm).
In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed three surface-to-air missile systems (two SA-8 Osa, 120mm; one SA-13 Strela-10, 120mm) near government-controlled Katerynivka (37km south-west of Donetsk), which were accompanied by ten armoured personnel carriers (APC; MT-LB), which were not in violation; and one self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) near government-controlled Zelenyi Hai (46km south-west of Donetsk).
The SMM observed the presence of other hardware within the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM observed: three APCs (BTR-70) and one infantry fighting vehicle (IFV; BMP-1) near government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk); three APCs near government-controlled Voitove (33km north-west of Luhansk).
In non-government-controlled areas the SMM observed: one IFV (BMP-1) near “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk); one APC (BTR-80) being towed by a Ural military-type truck and carrying three armed “DPR” members and another APC (MT-LB) in the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city.
The SMM long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted in government-controlled areas: one armoured combat vehicle (ACV) north-east of Troitske (69km west of Luhansk); one ACV north-east of Kodema (57km north-east of Donetsk); one ACV east of Semyhiria (57km north-east of Donetsk and two ACVs south-west of Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk). In “LPR”-controlled areas, the UAV spotted one ACV west of Kalynove (60km west of Luhansk).
Aerial surveillance imagery available to the SMM revealed the presence on 31 March of 15 ACVs in the wider area of government-controlled Pisky (11km north-west of Donetsk).
The SMM observed craters caused by shelling and followed up on reports of explosions. In “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed eight craters, allegedly caused by shelling on 31 March. The SMM observed that four of the craters were on Sovietskaia Street, and included damage to the structure of one civilian home, which had sustained a shell impact on a wall facing north. From the fragments recovered at the scene, the SMM assessed that the impact was caused by a 120mm mortar round. The SMM also observed other damage including broken windows and an additional four craters near, but not impacting, the polyclinic. In “LPR”-controlled Sukhodilsk (28km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM followed up on reports of an explosion at the industrial train station on 4 April and observed 18 burned out train cargo carriages that had been carrying coal and two burned out train tanker cars that had been filled with diesel. The SMM also saw that the train platform and railway tracks were burned and bent from the explosion and fire. The SMM spoke with three armed “LPR” members who said that the explosion was caused by arson but was unable to confirm this information with local “police”.
The SMM observed obstacles for civilians in crossing checkpoints along the contact line. At a government-controlled checkpoint near Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM spoke with the Ukrainian Armed Forces commander who said that the checkpoint was closed indefinitely due to security concerns. The SMM observed that there was no civilian traffic on the government-controlled side of the checkpoint, and the emergency response tents were closed. At the “LPR”-controlled checkpoint on the other side of the bridge, the SMM spoke with the only four civilians present, who came to the bridge to speak with the SMM and expressed concern that the closing of the entry-exit checkpoint for civilians could be a precursor to new escalation in the conflict.
The SMM visited border areas not controlled by the Government and was denied access at each location*. At the Uspenka border crossing point (73km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed seven civilian cars (five with Ukrainian license plates and two with Russian Federation licence plates) waiting to cross into the Russian Federation. The SMM was denied access to the customs border area by an armed “DPR” member. At the pedestrian border crossing point in Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed four pedestrians crossing to the Russian Federation from Ukraine during a 30-minute period. The SMM spoke with two of the pedestrians who stated they were Russian Federation citizens visiting relatives in Ukraine. Subsequently, an armed “DPR” member approached the SMM and asked it to leave the area.
In Kyiv the SMM monitored a court hearing of four defendants who were accused of staging an attack on participants of the 6 June 2015 “March of Equality” Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) Kyiv Pride parade and injuring up to nine police officers. After reading the charges of hooliganism outlined in the Criminal Code, the judge told the court that the defendants had submitted guilty pleas to the prosecuting attorney on 25 March. The judge accepted the guilty pleas and then sentenced the four men to two years of conditional imprisonment each, which includes restrictions of travel outside of Ukraine and a requirement to provide the court with information on employment and whereabouts. A group of 15 people (14 men, one woman) wearing on their clothing badges of Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) and Misanthropic Division observed the hearing and called out anti-LGBT epithets during the proceedings. The SMM spoke with an activist from the Gay Alliance who also observed the hearing and was visibly intimidated when one of the defendants asked him to identify himself before the court. After the sentencing, he expressed disappointment at what he said was a lenient sentence for such violent crimes and that he expected similar violent incidents at future marches.
In Kyiv the SMM observed a public demonstration in front the Presidential Administration building. Approximately 50-60 demonstrators (mostly men, in both civilian and camouflage clothing) gathered in front of the Presidential Administration building, made statements against corruption of public officials and sang the Ukrainian national anthem and other songs. The SMM observed approximately 100 National Guard officers in front of the building, later joined by an additional 100 riot police that cordoned off the building. One of the protestors’ vehicles present had an improvised gallows erected on its roof, and protestors also built a small barricade of car tyres. The SMM observed as protestors, who identified themselves as the organizers of the demonstration and wore green arm bands, placed tyres in front of the police cordon in front of the Administration building and set them on fire. Two scuffles between police and protestors ensued, as police tried to prevent protestors from setting tyres on fire and placing more tyres in the area. By 19:00hrs, the majority of demonstrators had dispersed; the SMM observed one injured journalist, who said that the gallows had fallen on him during one of the scuffles between protestors and police.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, and Chernivtsi.
*Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement and other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate
The SMM’s monitoring is restrained by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, and by restrictions of its freedom of movement and other impediments – which vary from day to day. The SMM's mandate provides for safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. All signatories of the Package of Measures have agreed on the need for this safe and secure access, that restriction of the SMM’s freedom of movement constitutes a violation, and on the need for rapid response to these violations.
Denial of access:
- On the eastern edge of “DPR”-controlled Hryhorivka (44km north-east of Mariupol), armed men prevented the SMM from proceeding to the village. The SMM informed the JCCC but was told that it could not continue due to security reasons.
- At the border crossing in Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), armed “DPR” members prevented the SMM from accessing the customs area.
- At the border crossing in Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), an armed “DPR” member told the SMM to leave the border area.
- At 09:45hrs on the eastern edge of “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM was stopped by armed men, who insisted on escorting the SMM for the remainder of its patrol until 15:30hrs. The JCCC was informed.
- “DPR” armed men stopped the SMM at a checkpoint near Petrovskyi district (20km south-west of Donetsk city) and demanded to see the patrol members’ national passports. After showing their passports, the SMM was allowed to proceed.
- At a checkpoint near “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk), armed men demanded to see and then took the national passports of the SMM, and ordered them not to use their phones. After ten minutes, “DPR” members returned the passports and the patrol was allowed to continue. The JCCC was informed.
- At a checkpoint near the eastern entrance to “LPR”-controlled Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk), armed men stopped the SMM and said it should wait for the arrival of the “LPR” checkpoint “commander”. Once he arrived, the SMM was permitted to proceed; the SMM was delayed for 23 minutes.