Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 16 May 2016

By SMukhametrakhimova

The SMM observed a relatively low level of violence in Donbas. The Mission observed the presence of hardware in the security zone. It monitored the situation of civilians at checkpoints near the contact line. The SMM visited border areas not controlled by the Government. The Mission’s freedom of movement was restricted on three occasions on both sides of the contact line.*

In keeping with the previous reporting period, the SMM recorded a relatively low number of ceasefire violations.[1]

While in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard, between 21:13 and 22:11 on 15 May, 52 explosions assessed as caused by outgoing rounds of undetermined weapons of a calibre less than 82mm 3-8km south-east of its position. In “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city, the SMM heard, between 22:00 on 15 May and 02:30 on 16 May, 71 undetermined explosions and one short burst of heavy-machine-gun fire 7-10km north-west of its position.

The following day, positioned 6km north-west of “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions, three bursts and two single shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-5km north and north-east, and one mortar round impacting 4km north-north-west of its position. Between 12:05 and 13:26, while in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard nine explosions assessed as impacts of 120 and 82mm mortar rounds, two impacts of recoilless gun (SPG-9) fire, three bursts of 30mm cannon and continuous exchanges of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-5km east-south-east of its position.

The situation remained relatively calm in Luhansk region, with the SMM recording two undetermined explosions. Positioned in a government-controlled part of Zolote (60km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 2km to the north-north-west; and positioned at the bridge south of government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), one undetermined explosion approximately 300m to the east.

In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, beyond the respective withdrawal lines, but outside permanent storage sites, the SMM observed two tanks (T-64) near government-controlled Novookhtyrka (55km north-west of Luhansk).

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons foreseen in the Minsk Package of Measures.

The SMM revisited an “LPR” heavy weapons permanent storage site and observed that five howitzers (D-30) were missing. The SMM noted a number of additional weapons present.

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 lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed 18 towed howitzers (D-20, 152mm) and five self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm). Five Addendum-regulated mortars (three PM-38, 120mm and two 2B9 Vasilek, 82mm) were absent.

The SMM observed the presence of armoured combat vehicles and an anti-aircraft weapon in the security zone. In government-controlled areas the SMM observed: two infantry fighting vehicles (IFV; BMP1 and BMP-2) near Voitove (33km north-west of Luhansk), two IFVs (BMP-2) near Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), one armoured personnel carrier (APC; BTR-60) near Svitlychne (54km north-west of Luhansk), four IFVs (BMP-2) near Krymske (44km north-west of Luhansk), and two armoured reconnaissance vehicles (BRDM-2) near Novotoshkivske (53km west of Luhansk). In “DPR”-controlled areas, the SMM observed: two APCs (BTR-80) in Donetsk city, and in “LPR”-controlled areas, one anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) near Zhovte (17km north-west of Luhansk).

The SMM monitored border areas in areas not controlled by the Government. At the border crossing point near Dolzhanskyi (84km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed 13 civilian cars crossing the border from Ukraine to the Russian Federation (ten with Ukrainian and three with Russian Federation licence plates). Moving in the opposite direction, the SMM observed 11 civilian cars (seven with Ukrainian and four with Russian Federation licence plates). In one vehicle entering Ukraine – an SUV with Ukrainian licence plates – the SMM observed three men in military-style clothing. At the unmanned pedestrian border crossing point in Krasnodarskyi (58km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed four elderly women and one elderly man entering Ukraine, and returning to the Russian Federation after 15 minutes; and three young men crossing into the Russian Federation and returning to Ukraine within five minutes.

The SMM continued to monitor long queues at crossing routes near the contact line. At a number of Ukrainian Armed Forces and “DPR” checkpoints along the H15 highway near Marinka, south-west of Donetsk city, the SMM in the morning observed in total 123 civilian vehicles queuing to move east and at least 500 queuing to move west. In the afternoon, it observed at the same checkpoints in total at least 30 civilian vehicles queuing to move east, and at least 285 civilians vehicles, plus 160 pedestrians, queuing to move west. The vast majority of people seen by the SMM on both occasions were at the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoints.

In government-controlled Velyka Chernihivka (44km north of Luhansk), the SMM spoke with several residents. They explained that most people there were dependent on agriculture. They added that they had difficulties – because of the contact line – in selling into the nearest big market, Luhansk city.

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

*Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or 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:

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers refused to allow the SMM to enter a military site near government-controlled Nikolske (21km north-west of Mariupol). The SMM informed the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination.

Conditional access:

  • “DPR” members, saying they were acting on instruction from the “DPR” “ministry of defence”, insisted on escorting the SMM on two occasions in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk).

[1]Pease see the annexed table for a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report.

* 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”.

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