Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 14 February 2017
This report is for the general public and the media.
The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations compared with the previous reporting period, mainly in the Avdiivka-Yasynuvata-Donetsk airport area. The Mission followed up on reports of explosions at industrial facilities in Donetsk city and Shchastia, and damage to civilian infrastructure in Novooleksandrivka. The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas in Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske but its access remained restricted.* Beyond the disengagement areas, too, the sides continued to restrict the Mission’s monitoring and verification on numerous occasions through direct denials of access or other impediments, including by not removing mines.* The SMM noted tanks in violation of withdrawal lines and weapons missing from storage sites on both sides of the contact line. It monitored the situation of civilians at entry-exit checkpoints. The SMM monitored adherence to the ceasefire to facilitate repair of a power line near Luhanske. It observed the blockade of railway crossings near Hirske and Shcherbynivka. The SMM visited a border area currently not controlled by the Government.
The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, including about 165 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (110 explosions). Most of the explosions recorded by the SMM occurred in Avdiivka-Yasynuvata-Donetsk airport area.
While in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city on the night of 13-14 February the SMM heard 105 undetermined explosions 3-5km north-north-west. Positioned at the Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of the city centre) on 14 February the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions 4-10km north, west and north-west.
Positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for three hours on 14 February the SMM heard 28 undetermined explosions, and 14 bursts and 46 shots of heavy-machine-gun fire at locations 2-7km ranging from south-west to north.
While in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) on the night of 13-14 February and during the following day the SMM heard seven undetermined explosions 5-7km south-east and south-south-east, and two explosions assessed as outgoing rounds of unknown weapons 3-5km south-west.
On the night of 13-14 February the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded ten tracer rounds in flight from west to east, followed by 27 tracer rounds and 13 rocket-assisted projectiles from east to west. The exchange continued with 92 more tracer rounds (63 from west to east, 20 from east to west, nine from south to north) and three rocket-assisted projectiles from east to west, all at undetermined distances north and north-east of the camera. During the day on 14 February the camera recorded two explosions assessed as impacts of artillery rounds at undetermined distances north-north-east.
In Luhansk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations, including 16 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (one explosion). Positioned in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska for four hours, the SMM heard four undetermined explosions at undetermined distances west. Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard seven undetermined explosions 4km north.
The SMM followed up on reports of explosions at industrial facilities and damage in residential areas. In the morning of 14 February the SMM heard a loud explosion in Donetsk city. Three men (40-60 years old) separately told the SMM that they had heard and felt a powerful explosion from Stepova Street 30 (8km north-west of the city centre). Two of them said that it occurred at a chemical plant in Donetsk. The SMM could not reach the site due to concrete blocks, “Stop” signs and pieces of wood on the road about 500m from the site.
Following up on media reports of an explosion at a power plant in Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), staff of the power plant said that the explosion had occurred on 11 February due to technical problems. No casualties were reported.
In Novooleksandrivka (65km west of Luhansk) the SMM observed two fresh impacts in a road. The north-facing part of the roof of a house about 70m north-west of the two impacts had a hole in it. According to a resident in the neighbouring house, shelling had occurred at 20:00 on 13 February.
The SMM followed up on separate reports by two civilians and an “LPR” member about shelling impacts on the night of 10-11 February in residential areas in “LPR”-controlled Slovianoserbsk (28km north-west of Luhansk). The areas, about 250m south-east of a psychiatric hospital, were covered with snow and the SMM could not confirm the reports.
The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas of Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), Zolote (60km west of Luhansk) and Petrivske (41km south of Donetsk), as foreseen in the Framework Decision of the Trilateral Contact Group relating to disengagement of forces and hardware of 21 September. The SMM’s access to all three areas remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*
In the Stanytsia Luhanska area, a Ukrainian officer of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) alleged that ceasefire violations had occurred during the night. South of the bridge, a Russian Federation officer of the JCCC said that “LPR” members were present at the bridge waiting for signs of disengagement from the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
A Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that demining activity in the Zolote disengagement area was ongoing, but the SMM could not confirm this.
Positioned in Petrivske the SMM heard three undetermined explosions 3-5km west, assessed as outside the disengagement area.
Despite the joint statement of 1 February by the Trilateral Contact Group, the sides did not yet provide the baseline information requested by the SMM on 3 February related to weapons to be withdrawn and locations of units and formations. The Ukrainian and the Russian Federation representatives of the JCCC said that the information would be provided to the SMM, but no date was specified.
The SMM nonetheless continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, in implementation of the Package of Measures and its Addendum, as well as the Memorandum.
In violation of the withdrawal lines the SMM observed one tank (T-64) on road H21 in Shchastia and one tank (T-64) in “LPR”-controlled Lyman (12km north-west of Luhansk).
Aerial imagery recorded on 12 February revealed, in violation of withdrawal lines, three towed howitzers (type unknown) near government-controlled Vozdvyzhenka (66km north-east of Donetsk).
The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage does not comply with the criteria set out in the 16 October 2015 notification. In areas controlled by the Government beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed 17 towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152 mm) and six multiple-launch rocket systems (9A53 Uragan, 220mm) as present. Fourteen towed howitzers (2A36) were missing, as previously noted.
The SMM revisited a permanent storage site in an area controlled by the Government whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines, and observed that ten tanks (T-64) were missing, as previously noted.
The SMM revisited a permanent storage site in an area currently not controlled by the Government, whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines, and observed that nine tanks (T-64) were missing, as previously noted.
The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles and one anti-aircraft gun in the security zone. The SMM observed, in areas controlled by the Government, two infantry fighting vehicles (IFV, BMP-1) and one anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) in Stanytsia Luhanska, and one IFV (BTR-3) in Nyzhnia Vilkhova (27km north-east of Luhansk) heading south-west. Aerial imagery recorded on 12 February revealed an armoured vehicle near Myronivka (64km north-east of Donetsk).
In areas currently not controlled by the Government the SMM saw two IFVs (BMP) north-east of Lyman; one stationary IFV (BMP-1) south of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (outside the disengagement area); one IFV (BMP) in Holubivka (formerly Kirovsk, 51km west of Luhansk); three IFVs (BMP-1) about 15m from a road in Lobacheve (13km east of Luhansk); three armoured personnel carriers (APC, MTLB) and about 90 armed men in Molodizhne (63km north-west of Luhansk), heading south-west; and four IFVs (BMP), one APC (MTLB), 15 military-type trucks and 15-20 armed men in different parts of Pryvitne (11km north of Luhansk).
The SMM observed armed men constructing a fortification and trenches 30m north of a road between “LPR”-controlled Smile (31km north-west of Luhansk) and Slovianoserbsk.
On 13 February an SMM mini unmanned aerial vehicle spotted trenches and fortified positions, as well as vehicle tracks on snow in Kalynivka (14km north-east of Mariupol).
The SMM continued to monitor a blockade of railway tracks across the contact line (see SMM Daily Report 14 February 2017). On 14 February, in government-controlled Hirske (63km west of Luhansk), the SMM observed that the railway track was still blocked with wooden barriers and barbed wire, and a train was still present. Eight unarmed men in military-type clothing were present. A police car was nearby.
At a railway crossing on the southern edge of the Kryvyi Torets station in government-controlled Shcherbynivka (44km north of Donetsk), the SMM observed 15 to 20 unarmed people (above 30 years old, some in civilian and others in camouflage clothing), two military-type tents, a military van and barbed wire on the ground next to the tents, Ukrainian, Right Sector and Donbass battalion flags, and a stationary cargo train facing north. Two police officers were standing about 30m from the blockade. A man in camouflaged clothing, who introduced himself as the commander of the blockade said that it had started on 10 February and the purpose was to block traffic of cargo trains.
District administration officials from government-controlled Sloviansk (95km north of Donetsk) expressed concern to the SMM that the obstruction of coal transportation would affect over 15,000 civilians in Mykolaivka (government-controlled, 95km north of Donetsk) area, including infrastructure such as hospitals, in addition to emergency services.
The SMM continued monitoring adherence to the ceasefire to facilitate repair, co-ordinated by the JCCC, of a high voltage power line near government-controlled Luhanske (59km north-east of Donetsk). (See SMM Daily Report 11 February 2017.) While at the site the SMM heard six explosions 1-5km north-west and north-north-west.
The SMM monitored the situation of civilians at entry-exit checkpoints along the contact line. At the entry-exit checkpoint in Horlivka the SMM observed 57 cars and seven pedestrians queuing to travel towards areas controlled by the Government. The pedestrians complained to the SMM about slow procedures. The SMM noted that the average time to check and register each car was around 20 minutes.
At the government checkpoint north of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, the SMM observed around 200 pedestrians queuing to walk towards areas currently not controlled by the Government and no people waiting in the opposite direction. The SMM observed that four booths were being used to check documents.
At 08:05, at the “LPR” checkpoint south of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, the SMM observed around 1,500 people waiting to walk towards areas controlled by the Government and no queue in the other direction. At 11:00, the SMM observed around 800 people still waiting to walk towards areas under the control of the Government and 20 waiting in the opposite direction. The SMM observed that one booth was operational.
The SMM visited a border area currently not controlled by the Government. During about an hour at the Uspenka border crossing point (73km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed 17 civilian cars (including two with “DPR” plates), 13 closed cargo trucks and a bus (most with Ukrainian licence plates) queuing to leave Ukraine. Two women (in their forties) separately told the SMM that people were allowed to travel to the Russian Federation using “DPR documents”. During its stay the SMM noted no movement of the queuing vehicles.
On 13 February in Chernivtsi the SMM monitored the situation of internally displaced people (IDPs) evacuated from government-controlled Krymske (42km north-west of Luhansk), an area affected by recent fighting (see SMM Daily Report 13 February). The SMM visited the premises of a boarding school in Chernivtsi where staff said that a group of children had arrived on 6 February from Krymske. Staff said that the children had been divided into two groups – one group of ten children (three girls and seven boys, aged 15-17) and the other of 12 children (15-17 years old) – and had been accommodated in two boarding schools. She added that the children could stay for one month or longer depending on the approval of parents.
The SMM continued monitoring in Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Kyiv.
*Restrictions of SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate
The SMM’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), 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. They have also agreed that the JCCC should contribute to such response and co-ordinate mine clearance.
Denial of access:
- A Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that no demining activities had taken place during the previous 24 hours in the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area and that, with the exception of the main road, the SMM’s safety could not be guaranteed in the surrounding areas due to the possible presence of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The SMM informed the JCCC.
- Armed men did not provide the SMM with security guarantees to access fields and side roads south of the Zolote disengagement area. The SMM saw mine hazard signs, but no fencing of the area. Due to the possible presence of mines and UXO the SMM did not proceed and informed the JCCC.
- The possible presence of mines and UXO prevented the SMM from travelling further south-east into the Zolote disengagement area from government-controlled Katerynivka (64km west of Luhansk). The Mission informed the JCCC.
- The SMM was unable to travel between government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk) and Katerynivka due to anti-tank obstacles on the road and the possible presence of mines, and because Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel told the SMM that permission had to be granted by their superiors. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- The SMM was unable to travel west from “DPR”-controlled Petrivske due to the lack of security guarantees and possible presence of mines. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- Armed men in the Kyivskyi district of “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city waved the SMM away. The SMM tried to engage in conversation with one of them, but they refused to speak gesturing the SMM to turn and leave. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- The SMM could not travel across the bridge in government-controlled Shchastia as Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- In “LPR”-controlled Kalynove (60km west of Luhansk), several armed men prevented the SMM from proceeding north-west along a small residential road, providing no explanation except that their superior was not present. The SMM informed the JCCC. On 9 February the SMM had seen two tanks in the area.
- On two separate occasions at a checkpoint in “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk) armed men, who refused to identify themselves, allowed the SMM to proceed further only after checking inside the vehicles. The second time they also wrote down the names of the SMM patrol members and inspected the trunks of the vehicles, citing orders from unnamed superiors to otherwise not allow the SMM access. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- Armed men prevented the SMM from proceeding west along the road from “LPR”-controlled Mykolaivka (15km east of Luhansk) toward government-controlled Lobacheve (13km east of Luhansk), citing instructions from their superior not to allow the SMM to proceed. The SMM informed the JCCC and, after a 30-minute wait, was allowed to pass.
 This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.