Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 28 June 2015

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements”. Its monitoring was restricted by third parties and security considerations*. The situation as observed at and around the Donetsk airport saw increased fighting; the situation around Shyrokyne was relatively calm, and the SMM verified press reports that there are no civilians remaining in the village. The SMM observed delays for civilians attempting to cross the checkpoint at Zaitseve.

At and around Donetsk airport, the SMM noted an increase in cease-fire violations as compared to recent days.  During a one-hour period in the afternoon of 28 June, the SMM observed 139 explosions to the north, north-east and north-west. SMM could furthermore hear bursts of SALW in combination with heavy machine-gun fire.[1]

At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) headquarters in Soledar (government-controlled, 75km north of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russian Federation Armed Forces representatives at the JCCC presented the SMM with two separate logbooks for 26 June, both indicating a majority of ceasefire violations committed by the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) and “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”). The Ukrainian Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, described the security situation as deteriorating with an increase in the number of cease-fire violations from the previous day. On the other hand, the Ukrainian Major-General said Ukrainian and Russian Federation representatives to the JCCC had succeeded in arranging to stop local fighting on 12 occasions on 26 June, out of 23 requests from the field.

At Makiivka (“DPR”-controlled, 7km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed a convoy of 25 large (32-ton) civilian trucks escorted by a “DPR” military truck at its end. All vehicles were heading towards Donetsk city. At least two of the trucks had Russian Federation license plates, and the majority of the trucks had their license plates covered. The trucks were moving slowly and their cargo compartments were covered with canvas, therefore they seemed to be carrying heavy loads, but SMM could not see the nature of the cargo.

At a government-controlled checkpoint in Volnovakha, at 12.00hrs, the SMM counted almost 150 vehicles waiting to cross into “DPR”-controlled area from government-controlled side and about 115 vehicles waiting to cross from “DPR”-controlled side to the government-controlled side.  The SMM spoke to travelers on the government-controlled side, several of whom said they had been waiting for over six hours at the checkpoint and that the waits could sometimes be as long as ten hours.

At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near Zaitseve (government-controlled; 60km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM was present for approximately three hours and observed some 800 vehicles queuing to cross into “DPR”-controlled areas on 27 June. The queue of vehicles waiting to cross from “DPR”-controlled areas into government-controlled areas decreased throughout the day from 250 to 50 vehicles during the several hours that the SMM was present. Travelers told the SMM that they had been waiting to cross for up to 48 hours and suggested that part of the reason for this might be the long Constitution Day weekend. On 28 June, the SMM observed shorter queues of 460 vehicles on the government-controlled side of the checkpoint and 136 vehicles on the “DPR”-controlled side. The Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint commander said that the newly introduced electronic permit system is not yet fully operational or synchronized with existing paper permit system, causing some confusion and delays. Later in the day on 28 June, the SMM noted that the number of travelers had stayed relatively reduced – with some 200 vehicles lined up to cross into “DPR”-controlled areas and some 40 waiting to cross to the government side. Also, travelers reported during the course of 28 June that the wait time to cross from the government-controlled side decreased from a reported 24 hours to eight hours and then, at 16:00hrs, to one hour.

The security situation remained calm in Mariupol (government-controlled, 103km south of Donetsk). From observation posts west of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol), the SMM observed that the situation was mostly calm and did not observe any military action in the daytime on 27 and 28 June, except for 13 outgoing 82mm mortar shells fired between 17:00 and 18:00hrs on 28 June.

The SMM visited Shyrokyne and confirmed media reports that all civilians have left the village. The SMM conducted a foot patrol on 27 June, focused on areas where a few remaining inhabitants had been known to live when the SMM last visited the village on 9 June (see SMM Daily Report 9 June). The SMM on this occasion found their homes abandoned and damaged or destroyed. Following this patrol, the SMM spoke to a “DPR” commander who said he knew by name those whom the SMM was seeking. According to him, the last civilian inhabitants had left on 15 June. The SMM observed that the scale of damage in the village had increased since the last visit. It assessed that over 80 per cent of the houses and buildings in the village are destroyed.

The overall situation in the Luhansk region remained tense with shelling observed in several places. The SMM heard heavy-machine-gun fire and repeated small arms fire on 27 June in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk). On 28 June, in government-controlled Popasna, the SMM heard heavy incoming and outgoing fire from mortars, heavy machine-guns and artillery. The JCCC jointly reported to the SMM a total of 26 ceasefire violations from the side of the “LPR” against the Ukrainian Armed Forces during the period from 26 to 28 June, which included the use of small arms, automatic grenade launchers, heavy machine-guns, mortars (82mm/120mm), anti-aircraft guns, grenade launchers and BM21 Grad multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS).

On 27 June, in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM followed up on reports of shelling of a Ukrainian Armed Forces position and a residential area. The SMM met two Ukrainian JCCC representatives who stated that the shelling took place on the night of 26 June. As a result, they said, one woman (age 56, a resident of Luhansk) was killed and three Ukrainian soldiers were wounded (one seriously), one civilian house was burned down and another was damaged. The SMM confirmed ten impacts: four from 120mm mortars (mortar rounds’ tails were still visible in the blast site), three craters from undetermined weapons, and one impact assessed as likely from a 30mm AGS-17, where the SMM was told that the woman was killed (fresh blood was found three meters from the impact). Eight explosions were in close proximity to an abandoned gas station on the way to the last Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint before the bridge. Two more impacts were found in a populated area: one shell had hit a house resulting in the whole house burning down, while another shell had hit a different house, causing a hole in the building wall. The positioning of mortar tails indicated that the shells were likely fired from the south.

On 28 June, in government-controlled Toshkivka (60km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM spoke with one female shopkeeper who reported fighting taking place the night before around government-controlled Svetlichna, near government-controlled Nyzhnie (56km north-west of Luhansk). According to her, both the electric cables and water pipes in Svetlichna were damaged, leaving Toshkivka  without water supply. The SMM went to the Svetlichna water plant to follow up on the reports of shelling. The SMM spoke with one Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier who stated that there had been a barrage of 25 Grad rockets at 03:30hrs the night before, lasting approximately five to ten minutes. The rockets had hit the water station and also damaged the electrical infrastructure. Based on crater analysis, the SMM determined from the angle of the impact that the rockets had originated from a southerly direction.

On 28 June, in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM talked with personnel at  the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint at the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, who noted that electricity outages had continued  for the fourth day in Stanytsia Luhanska, and that mobile phone service has also been negatively impacted by this utility outage. The SMM also spoke to four women aged 35-50, and one man aged 50, about the bridge crossing situation.  The interlocutors said they had been trying to cross the bridge from the government-controlled side for the past two weeks, and had only come from Luhansk city to visit relatives or obtain humanitarian aid, and they had believed they would be able to return easily. Some of the SMM’s interlocutors stated that they have run out of money and are now living on the streets. They said that their fellow travelers who had the money to do so had returned to Luhansk city via the Russian Federation.

On 27 and 28 June, the SMM re-visited six “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas, whose locations comply with respective withdrawal lines. At three of these sites, the SMM found all previously recorded heavy weapons in situ. At the first site the SMM checked the serial numbers on five out of six previously recorded self-propelled artillery pieces, (122mm, 2S1 Gvozdika) and confirmed they were the same as previously noted. The SMM was informed by the “DPR” commander at the site that the sixth artillery piece was relocated for repairs to undisclosed location. At one site, the SMM was informed by the security guard that the weapons systems previously recorded there (four Grad MLRS) were on a training exercise and were expected to return shortly. The SMM returned later in the day, but again found the weapons not in place. The SMM was denied access to one site and informed that advance notice should be given prior to SMM visits.*

Despite claims by all sides that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements/presence in areas that are non-compliant with the respective withdrawal lines. The SMM observed three MT-12 anti-tank guns (100mm) being used in training in a field 5km east of Kramatorsk. In “DPR”-controlled areas, the SMM observed a total of five T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs). In the vicinity of an “LPR” training site the SMM observed 18 MBTs (T-64) performing non-live-fire exercises.

In Odessa, the SMM followed up on press reports that two policemen were shot on the evening of 26 June, at Arcadia beach. The SMM visited the scene at 12:00hrs on 27 June and observed two sets of flowers on the pavement. The SMM spoke to an elderly shopkeeper near the scene. She said that around 23:00hrs, she heard some sounds of shooting from the Arcadia club area. She later learned that two policemen were shot, but she didn’t see anybody at the time.

At 14:30hrs on 27 June, the SMM contacted the press service of the Odessa regional police department.  The press officer confirmed that on 26 June, two patrol police officers aged 31 and 25 had been shot by an unknown individual at Arcadia beach. One officer received several gunshot wounds and later died in hospital. The second police officer had been shot twice and had undergone surgery, and was no longer in life-threatening condition. The second police officer provided a description of the suspect, and a drawing was created and disseminated. Police have increased patrols in the area, and a pistol recovered at the site was sent to the police forensic unit for examination. The police told the SMM that the motive for the crime was unknown, but the case was not considered to be related to political issues.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Chernivtsi and Lviv.

* Restrictions on SMM monitoring, access and freedom of movement:

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by third parties and security considerations, including the presence – and lack of information on the whereabouts – of mines, and damaged infrastructure. The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere. Self-imposed restrictions on movement into high-risk areas have impinged on SMM patrolling activities, particularly in areas not controlled by the government. Most areas along the Ukraine-Russian Federation international border have ordinarily been placed off limits to the SMM by both the “DPR” and “LPR”.

Delay:

  • At a ”DPR” check point in Maiorsk (44km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM patrol was asked to wait for clearance to pass; the waiting time was ten minutes in both directions.
  • At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint south-east of Sloviansk (government-controlled, 95km north of Donetsk), the SMM was told to wait and to turn off the car engine as the soldier said that their commander had information that SMM vehicles with different license plate numbers were supposed to be passing through the checkpoint. The SMM was able to pass the checkpoint after a 15-minute wait.

Prevented access:

  • At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Volnovakha, the SMM was interviewing people waiting to cross through the same checkpoint into “DPR”-controlled areas and was approached by two checkpoint guards, who told the SMM to proceed to the checkpoint and speak with the commander before talking to people waiting in line. The SMM then went to the checkpoint, where the trunks of the vehicles were searched and the patrol leader was asked for her nationality. The whole procedure took about 15 minutes, and the SMM was then allowed to proceed.
  • The SMM was denied access to one “DPR” heavy weapons holding area on the grounds that advance notice should be given prior to SMM visits.

 

* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.

[1]  For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.

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