Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 17 May 2016

By SSharma

This report is for the general public and the media.

The SMM observed a relatively low level of violence in Donbas. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons and visited a border area not controlled by the Government. The SMM noted long queues at checkpoints and monitored the situation affecting civilians living near the contact line. It followed up on reports of shelling in “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk and on reports of casualties due to an explosion in Donetsk city. The SMM also monitored the situation of IDPs. The Mission’s freedom of movement was restricted on three occasions.*

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

In government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), in less than a two-hour period during the evening and night of 16 May, the SMM heard approximately 260 single shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire and ten undetermined explosions 3-5km south-east of its position. The SMM also heard 20 explosions assessed as outgoing mortar rounds of undetermined calibre, ten 1km to the east and ten 5km to the east, between 21:00 and midnight.

The SMM noted a limited number of ceasefire violations around the Donetsk city and Avdiivka-Yasynuvata area. The recorded violations between government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) and “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) all consisted of single explosions and sporadic bursts and shots of small-arms fire. During an approximately one-hour period around noon, the SMM heard four impacts (automatic grenade launcher and recoilless gun (SPG-9)) and three bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire 2-5km east of Avdiivka and 17 bursts and 16 single shots of small-arms fire 2-5km south-south-east of Yasynuvata. At 11:52, the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 3-5km west-south-west of the Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre).

The SMM recorded an increase in ceasefire violations in Luhansk region compared to previous days. During the night of 16 May in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM heard 35 undetermined explosions approximately 3km south of its position. The following morning, during the flight of an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near the Stanytsia Luhanska railway bridge, the SMM heard 35-40 shots of small-arms fire (AK-47) and 10-20 seconds of continuous machine-gun (PKM) and small-arms fire (AK-47) coming from the direction of government-controlled areas. Images taken by the UAV showed two individuals at a Ukrainian Armed Forces position with their weapons pointed in the direction of the UAV. The SMM also heard 12 undetermined explosions and five shots of small-arms fire 2-3km north-west of its position in government-controlled Dmytrivka (43km north-west of Luhansk), all assessed as part of live-fire exercises outside of the security zone.

The SMM followed up on reports of shelling in “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (30km south-west of Donetsk). At a fenced industrial area housing a private residence, the SMM observed a number of craters and damage to a barn and garage. A large number of local and Russian media and “DPR” members were present when the SMM arrived. The SMM analysed three craters and determined them to have been caused by 82mm mortars fired from a westerly direction. The craters all appeared relatively fresh; according to residents of the compound, the shelling occurred in salvos 10-15 minutes apart from 23:00 on 16 May until 04:00 on 17 May, with the damage to the property occurring around midnight. In addition to the three analysed craters, the SMM observed other impacts. The SMM observed that the roof of a barn had collapsed. An impact to the roof of a nearby garage was observed, as was damage to the interior and a tractor parked inside. Separately, two “DPR” members showed the SMM the tailfins of two 120mm mortars that they said were found in the area, both were assessed as a 120mm aluminium extended range mortar. The residents of the nearby house showed the SMM two impacts to the roof which they said were caused when shells struck on 17 March.

In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage sites whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines and noted that eight tanks (T-64) and three mortars (two 2B9, 82mm and one BM37, 82mm) were missing. At one site, all previously verified weapons were present. The SMM revisited an “LPR” permanent storage site whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines and found that all previously verified weapons were present.

Beyond the withdrawal lines, but outside storage sites, the SMM observed three tanks (T-72) at a training area in “LPR”-controlled Shymshynivka (27km south-west of Luhansk).

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons as 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 notification.

In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed 18 towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm). Three towed howitzers were absent (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm). Three areas were found to be abandoned; two since 6 April and one since 8 March 2016. The SMM noted that 23 towed howitzers (five 2A65 Msta-B, 152mm and 18 Giatsint-B, 152mm) were missing from these areas.

In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed two self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), eight towed howitzers (six 2A65 Msta-B, 152mm; and two D30, 122mm) and six multiple-launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 122mm).

In violation of the withdrawal lines, the SMM observed seven self-propelled howitzers (assessed as 2S19 Msta-S, 152mm) at a training area in “LPR”-controlled Shymshynivka.

The SMM observed the presence of armoured combat vehicles and other hardware in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM observed: two armoured personnel carriers (APCs) in Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), two APCs stationary near Troitske (69km west of Luhansk), one stationary APC (MT-LB) in the vicinity of Novozvanivka (70km west of Luhansk), and one APC (BTR-70) in the area of Lopaskyne (23km north-west of Luhansk) travelling towards government-controlled Trokhizbenka (32km north-west of Luhansk). The SMM observed nine military-type trucks in a convoy moving from “LPR”-controlled Brianka (46km south-west of Luhansk) towards “LPR”-controlled Stakhanov (50km west of Luhansk).

The SMM monitored a border area not controlled by the Government. At the border crossing point in Chervonopartyzansk (64km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed 16 civilian cars (ten with Russian Federation licence plates), one bus (Russian Federation licence plate) and one civilian truck (Ukrainian licence plate) crossing into the Russian Federation. Moving in the opposite direction, the SMM observed 17 civilian cars (seven with Ukrainian and ten with Russian Federation licence plates) entering “LPR”-controlled areas. The SMM was present in the area from 11:40 to 12:30.

The SMM continued to monitor long queues at crossing routes near the contact line. In the morning, the SMM observed at least 562 civilian vehicles and 130 pedestrians waiting to move west at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near Marinka (government-controlled, 23km south-west of Donetsk). The SMM observed at least 227 civilian vehicles and 50 pedestrians waiting to move east at the same checkpoint. At a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint farther to the east along the same road, the SMM observed 14 cars waiting to head west. In the afternoon, the SMM observed 182 civilian vehicles and 60 pedestrians waiting to move east and 50 civilian vehicles and 200 pedestrians waiting to move west at the government checkpoint near Marinka. Approximately 15 minutes later, the SMM observed 340 civilian vehicles and at least 100 pedestrians waiting to move west at a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint located to the east on the same road. At “DPR”-controlled checkpoints on the road to government-controlled Maiorsk (45km north-east of Donetsk) from “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed an approximately 2.5 kilometre-long line of vehicles and encountered civilians, some of whom were visibly frustrated and complained to the SMM that they had been waiting in line for more than 24 hours. On the morning of 17 May, at the government checkpoint at Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, the SMM observed 150-200 people waiting to move north and approximately 500-550 waiting to move south. A member of a Ukrainian emergency response team told the SMM that they were running out of drinking water for civilians crossing the bridge, around which there is no protection from the sun. In the afternoon, 70-80 people were waiting to move north at the government-checkpoint, and no one was waiting to move the other direction.

In Donetsk city, the SMM followed up on media reports that a vehicle exploded on 14 May in a central part of the city. The director of a morgue in the city confirmed that they had received the body of one person on 14 May who was killed in the explosion. The director of a hospital in Donetsk told the SMM that three people had been injured in the explosion. A “DPR” “police chief” told the SMM that he could not provide any information as the “investigation” was still ongoing.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In Chernivtsi, the SMM spoke with the deputy head of the regional state administration regarding reports, including from IDPs, about pending evictions of four IDP families from a collective centre at a hotel in the city. The SMM had previously met with the management of the hotel on 10 May who claimed that, as of the beginning of 2016, the Government was no longer providing reimbursements for IDP housing costs to collective centres. The deputy head of the regional state administration told the SMM that approximately 500 IDP families in the region faced serious housing problems. According to him, only one of the four families who had difficulties paying for accommodation in the hotel had not agreed to pay rent. Over the last few months the SMM has spoken with IDPs and organizations assisting IDPs in Chernivtsi, who confirmed that many IDPs face difficulties in securing affordable housing. At a public event in Kyiv, speakers, including from the organization Crimean Diaspora, stated that the Government provided pre-existing social benefits and counselling services in the first few months of displacement, and volunteer groups provided immediate services specific to the most urgent issues faced by IDPs.

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

*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:

  • On 17 May, an SMM UAV was fired at from a government-controlled position on three successive occasions while flying over the Stanytsia Luhanska railway bridge. The SMM was forced to recall the UAV, which did not sustain any damage. The JCCC was informed of the incident.

Conditional access:

  • Armed men stopped the SMM on the eastern outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata and the patrol had to wait 20 minutes before being allowed to pass into the city with an escort of two armed men. The SMM informed the JCCC.

Delay:

  • At the south-eastern entrance to “DPR”-controlled Oktiabr (29km north-east of Mariupol), armed men stopped the SMM and forced the patrol to wait 35 minutes before allowing it to pass. The SMM informed the JCCC.

[1] Please 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.

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