Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 15 February 2017
This report is for the general public and the media.
The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations compared with the previous reporting period in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 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 howitzers and tanks in violation of withdrawal lines and weapons missing from storage sites on both sides of the contact line. It observed the blockade of railway crossings near Hirske, Bakhmut and Shcherbynivka. The SMM facilitated repair of a power line between Svitlodarsk and Horlivka. It visited a border area currently not controlled by the Government. The Mission observed an organized gathering of civilians in front its residence in Donetsk city. The SMM monitored the situation of IDPs in Kharkiv.
The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, including about 80 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (165 explosions). Most of the explosions recorded by the SMM occurred in Avdiivka-Yasynuvata-Donetsk airport area.
While in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city on the evening and night of 14-15 February the SMM heard 33 undetermined explosions 10-15km north. Positioned at the Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of the city centre) on 15 February the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions 2-3km north-north-west and two undetermined explosions 6-10km north-north-east.
Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) over about four hours on 15 February the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions, and 19 bursts and five shots of heavy-machine-gun and 31 shots of small-arms fire, as well as overlapping and uncountable bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire for about thirty minutes, all at locations 2-6km north, west and north-west. The evening of 14 February, the SMM camera at the “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr mine (9km north-west of Donetsk city centre) recorded three undetermined explosions 6-10km north-east of the camera’s location.
On the night of 14-15 February the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded four tracer rounds in flight from east to west, followed by one tracer round from west to east, at undetermined distances north.
In Luhansk region the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including 14 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (16 explosions). While in “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city, the SMM heard five undetermined explosions about 10km away in an unknown direction. Positioned in government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 3-5km north.
The SMM observed an organized gathering of civilians in Donetsk city in front of its residence for about two hours consisting of approximately 400 people, mainly youth and pensioners. Those present chanted and held signs criticizing OSCE SMM and monitoring, highlighting the negative impacts of ongoing fighting on civilians. Following allegations by several of the gathering’s organizers of damage as a result of shelling in “DPR”-controlled Petrovskyi district of Donetsk, the SMM dispatched a patrol to observe the area. En route at a “DPR” checkpoint in Petrovskyi district, however, armed “DPR” members prevented the SMM from proceeding to the area, citing ongoing shelling.* The SMM remained at the checkpoint for 45 minutes and did not hear any shelling. The SMM contacted the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) for assistance to ensure SMM freedom of movement, but a Russian Federation Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the Mission that the “DPR” would not allow the SMM to proceed. A Russian media outlet and a “DPR”-affiliated media outlet, as well as the gathering’s organizers, were also present at the checkpoint.
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.*
During the night of 14 February, the SMM camera at government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska recorded five shots of small-arms fire about 1.7km south of the camera’s location, assessed as inside the disengagement area.
Positioned 2km north-east of government-controlled Bohdanivka (41km south-west of Donetsk), at the edge of the Petrivske disengagement area, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions at an undetermined direction and distance, heard and saw three undetermined explosions 3-4km north-west and north-north-west, and heard two explosions (one assessed as impact of unknown weapon) 3-4km west-north-west, all assessed as outside the disengagement area.
While present, the SMM observed that the Zolote disengagement area was calm.
Despite the joint statement of 1 February by the Trilateral Contact Group, the sides have not yet provided the baseline information requested by the SMM on 3 February related to weapons to be withdrawn and locations of units and formations.
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 government-controlled areas, in violation of the withdrawal lines, the SMM observed three self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) on flatbed trucks moving north near Zoria (80km south of Donetsk), three self-propelled howitzers (2S3) loaded on stationary flatbed trucks, which appeared ready for movement between Zelene Pole (40km north-west of Donetsk) and Oleksandropil (43km north of Donetsk) and another self-propelled howitzer (2S3) loaded on a flatbed truck traveling north to south and later unloaded to a field on the side of a road near Zelene Pole. On 15 February, an SMM mini unmanned aerial vehicle spotted two towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm) near government-controlled Aslanove (85km south of Donetsk).
In violation of the withdrawal lines in non-government-controlled areas the SMM observed a self-propelled howitzer (2S3) near a warehouse in the Petrovskyi district of “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city and a tank near a civilian house in Lyman (12km north-west of Luhansk).
Beyond withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, in government-controlled areas the SMM observed a surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa, 210mm) near Zoria, one tank (T-64) 1km north-east of Soledar (79km north of Donetsk), and three tanks (T-64) near Vozdvyzhenka (40km north-west of Donetsk). On 14 February, the SMM observed one self-propelled howitzer (2S7 Pion, 203mm) covered with canvas on a flatbed towed by a military truck near government-controlled Rodynske (59km north-west of Donetsk) heading north-west.
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: five self-propelled howitzers (2S3), six towed-howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm), and six anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm). The SMM noted as missing: 39 self-propelled howitzers (25 2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm and 14 2S3); 55 mortars (two 2B9 Vasilek, 82mm, five PM-38, 120mm, and 48 2S12 Sani, 120mm); 19 pieces of towed artillery (D20, 152mm); 28 anti-tank guns (MT-12); 14 towed-howitzers (2A65), four surface-to-air missile systems (9K35 Strela-10, 120mm); and three towed howitzers (D-44, 85mm).
In areas not controlled by the Government, beyond respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed two towed howitzers (D30, 122mm), three anti-tank guns (MT-12) hooked to trucks and which an armed “DPR” member told the SMM had been loaded with ammunition, and six towed-howitzers (2A65). The SMM noted as missing: three anti-tank guns (MT-12); one towed howitzer (2A65); and two self-propelled howitzers (2S1).
The SMM revisited a permanent storage site in a government-controlled area, whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines, and observed as missing 44 tanks (T-64), as previously noted; seven anti-tank guns (D-44, 85mm), three mortars (2B11 Sani, 120mm) for the first time, and 13 mortars (2B9), as previously noted.
The SMM revisited two permanent storage sites in areas currently not controlled by the Government, whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines, and observed that six tanks (T-64) were missing for the first time. At one location, the SMM saw a closed gate with a red sign that read “No unauthorized access allowed”, and did not see any personnel in the area.*
The SMM revisited a heavy weapons permanent storage site in a government-controlled area whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines and observed 31 tanks (T-64) as missing.
The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles in the security zone. The SMM observed three IFVs (BMP-1) at a known training area in government-controlled Valuiske (20km north-east of Luhansk).
In areas currently outside of government control, the SMM saw two IFVs (BMP-1) south of the bridge in Shchastia; two IFVs (BMP-1) near Lyman, and one stationary IFV (BMP-1) south of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (outside the disengagement area). On 14 February, an SMM mini unmanned aerial vehicle spotted three infantry fighting vehicles (IFV; BMP-1) near Veselenke (11km north-east of Luhansk).
The SMM observed five armed men in camouflage clothing constructing trenches 100m east of an “LPR” checkpoint about 2km south-east of the bridge in Shchastia.
The SMM continued to monitor three blockades of railway tracks across the contact line (see SMM Daily Report 14 February 2017). On 15 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. Twelve unarmed men in military-style clothing were present and told the SMM that they were former volunteers for Aidar, Donbas and 17th Battalion of the 79th Brigade. Several of the men had insignia on their clothing and Ukrainian, Georgian and Donbas battalion flags were hanging from the wall of a tent. Two policemen were present in camouflage uniforms and a police car was parked nearby. Both an employee of the railway company and the supervisor of a repair crew separately told the SMM that repair work, which had been scheduled for the day in this area of the Shepilove-Sentianivka railway line, had been cancelled due to the blockade.
At a railway crossing in government-controlled Bakhmut (formerly Artemivsk, 67km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed two tents and about 20 people (18 men, two women, the majority wearing camouflage clothing and some with insignia of volunteer battalions). A locomotive was parked north of the blocked railway crossing.
At a railway crossing on the southern edge of the Kryvyi Torets station in government-controlled Shcherbynivka (44km north of Donetsk), the SMM observed ten unarmed people (above 30 years old, some in civilian and others in camouflage clothing some with insignia of volunteer battalions), and spoke with a man who introduced himself as a member of the national Parliament of Ukraine. A policeman was stationed 100m away from the blockade. The SMM saw a train parked south of the blockade and six railway employees at a nearby station told the SMM that it was full of 5,000 tons of coal and was in danger of its brakes failing.
The SMM continued monitoring adherence to the ceasefire to facilitate repair, co-ordinated by the JCCC from both sides of the contact line for repairs to a high-voltage power line between government-controlled areas of Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) and Luhanske (59km north-east of Donetsk). A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that the work had been completed successfully for the day and would continue tomorrow.
The SMM visited a border area currently not controlled by the Government. During about an hour at the pedestrian border crossing point in Sievernyi (50km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed ten pedestrians entering and two pedestrians leaving Ukraine. The SMM spoke with six people who told the SMM that they crossed the border for a range of reasons, including to purchase household goods that are less expensive in Ukraine and to visit relatives in the Russian Federation.
In Kharkiv city, the administrator of a camp housing 70 internally displaced persons (IDPs) told the SMM that it would close at the end of June 2017 due to a lack of funding. He said the date had been chosen to allow the IDP children to complete their school year. Two IDPs (female, 30 and 40 years old) told the SMM that they used to live near the Donetsk airport and had arrived at the camp in 2014. Since their arrival, they said they had not returned to Donetsk. Both women told the SMM that they were looking for private accommodation near Kharkiv city but that this was difficult as they were unemployed.
The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipro, 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 east from government-controlled Bohdanivka due to the lack of security guarantees and the presence of anti-tank mines on the road. 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.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel refused SMM access to a military compound in government-controlled Zoria (80km south of Donetsk). The SMM informed the JCCC.
- Armed “DPR” members refused SMM access to a compound near “DPR”-controlled Patriotychne (35km north-east of Mariupol) and demanded that the SMM leave the area. The Mission informed the JCCC.
- Armed “DPR” members refused SMM access to a compound near “DPR”-controlled Kachkarske (35km north-east of Mariupol), citing a lack of instructions from their “commander”. The Mission informed the JCCC.
- Armed men in the Petrovksyi district of “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city prevented the SMM from proceeding to an alleged impact site, citing ongoing shelling. The SMM was present at the checkpoint for about 45 minutes, where media and organizers from a gathering of civilians in Donetsk city were also present. The SMM did not hear any ceasefire violations during its presence. A Russian Federation Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that armed “DPR” members would not allow the SMM to pass due to security concerns.
- At a “DPR” permanent storage site, the SMM saw a closed gate and no “DPR” members present and as a result was unable to monitor the weapons storage site.
 This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.