Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 31 August 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 the parties and security considerations*. The number of ceasefire violations observed remained at a similar level compared with the previous day in Donetsk. No ceasefire violations were recorded in the Luhansk region. The SMM observed preparations for the start of the school year in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In Kyiv the SMM monitored a protest outside the national Parliament which turned violent.

During the observation period, the SMM, from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), observed no explosions at and around Donetsk airport (9km north-west of Donetsk), although between 14:56 and 16:11hrs, it did hear approximately 100 small arms being fired at distances ranging between 4 and 6km north of its position[1].

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC told the SMM that while the number of ceasefire violations had significantly decreased, the security situation remained tense. According to him, over the last two days there was no recorded use of heavy weapons.

The SMM heard several explosions in areas north-east of Mariupol, such as “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol) and government-controlled Pavlopil (26km north-east of Mariupol).

At a “DPR” training area and shooting range in Rozy Liuksemburh (45km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard five explosions and shooting, which it assessed to have been fired from infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), anti-tank guns (ATGs) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).

At 10:13hrs, while flying south of “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol), all contact with an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was abruptly lost. Contact with the UAV was not restored by 13:45hrs, by which time the UAV must have run out of fuel. At this point, following the procedures, the aircraft was declared lost. An SMM patrol went to the last known location over which the UAV was flying on a field 1.5km south of the village, where the SMM was stopped by two armed “DPR” members, who denied the SMM further access to the area*. However, when looking towards the probable crash area, the SMM could observe burned patches on the ground.  

At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint 5km south-west of Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM monitored a peaceful demonstration of around 70-80 people (men and women equally, aged 50-70) requesting to pass through the checkpoint to the village which had been closed for all traffic following the shelling on 26 August (see SMM Daily Report 29 August). In the village, the SMM spoke with the informally elected head of community, who said there was significant shortage of different types of goods, including foods and medicine in the village. He added that residents were not able to bring the locally produced agricultural produce out of the village for sale.

In “DPR”-controlled Torez (62km east of Donetsk), the SMM met the “head” of the “education department of the city administration”, who said that all 17 schools in the city were ready to open on 1 September. In the village, the SMM visited a school, where the “deputy director” of the school confirmed that the school was prepared to open.

In government-controlled Pavlopil (26km north-east of Mariupol), a school director told the SMM that the only school in the village has been closed due to a lack of drinking water (as the water pipeline had been damaged by shelling) and a lack of capacity in providing children with meals as a result of conflict. The interlocutor added that seven school-aged children in the village would attend the school in government-controlled Talakivka (17km north-east of Mariupol) – 9km south-east of Pavlopil.

The overall situation in Luhansk remained relatively calm with no use of weapons observed by the SMM.

In “LPR”-controlled Khriashchuvate (10km south-east of Luhansk), the “head” of the “village council” told the SMM that there was no water in “LPR”-controlled Ternove (15km south-east of Luhansk) – 7km south of Khriashchuvate – as water infrastructure had been destroyed as a result of both its age and the current conflict and water had been transported from Khriashchuvate to Ternove village by tractors. The interlocutor added that a school and a kindergarten in Khriashchuvate, which had been repaired, were ready to open on 1 September. The SMM observed that the school was totally renovated. 

In “LPR”-controlled Alchevsk (40km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM met the “head” of the “department of education”  who said there were around 6,100 children currently enrolled in 16 schools in the town, which were ready to open on 1 September. The interlocutor added that there was an increase in the number of internally displaced persons enrolled in schools compared with the previous year.         

In government-controlled Shyrokyi (38km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM met with a staff member (female aged 50) of the village council, who stated that there are currently around 1,400 inhabitants in the village while 2,400 people had lived there before the conflict. According to the interlocutor, local residents had moved to other parts of the country and the Russian Federation due mainly to a lack of employment opportunities related to the conflict in the area.

The SMM revisited two Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas whose locations corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines. In both areas, all previously registered weapons were present and their serial numbers matched the SMM’s records.

The SMM also revisited four “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas whose locations corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines. In two areas, it found that all previously recorded weapons were present. In the third area, the SMM observed five mortars (120mm PM-38) were missing. In the fourth area, the SMM observed that the serial numbers of three howitzers (122mm D-30) did not match the numbers previously recorded, and one anti-tank gun (100mm MT-12 Rapira) was missing. In a fifth area, the SMM was denied access*.

In “DPR”-controlled Sontseve, the SMM observed a parked truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted from 100m south from its position. Until the moment contact was lost between the UAV and its base, the UAV observed concentrations of military hardware in “DPR”-controlled areas close to the contact line: notably seven main battle tanks (MBTs), twenty-five armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and four multi-purpose light-armoured towing vehicles (MT-LBs) in and around Komsomolske (73km north-east of Mariupol),  five  self-propelled howitzers (2-S1 Gvozdika,122mm) and eleven APCs in and around Rozdolne (46km south-east of Donetsk), two MBTs in Michurine (55km north-east of Mariupol), and two MBTs in Bezimenne (30km east of Mariupol).

On 29 August, at Kulykove Pole in Odessa, the SMM monitored the weekly demonstration and commemoration of victims of 2 May 2014 events attended by 50 anti-Maidan activists (men and women equally, mostly middle aged to elderly) and the counter-demonstration attended by 20 pro-Maidan activists (mostly men of different ages) carrying Ukrainian flags. Twenty police officers initially formed a line separating the two groups. After pro-Maidan activists threw two eggs toward the anti-Maidan group, one of which hit an anti-Maidan activist, another fifteen police officers quickly arrived and reinforced the police line. The demonstration ended without further incidents.

In front of the national Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) building in Kyiv, the SMM monitored a rally starting at 09:00hrs, where around 3,000 persons (male and female of all ages) carrying Svoboda party, Radical party and Ukrop party flags were protesting against constitutional amendments that were being voted on inside the Parliament (see SMM Spot Report 31 August). Riot police (approx. 1,000) and national guards (approx. 1,000) with anti-riot equipment were present. At approximately 13:00hrs, the protestors grew agitated after they learned the constitutional amendments had been passed in the first reading. They started to burn debris in front of the main entrance and confronted servicemen (physically with clubs and verbally) that were cordoning the building with full anti-riot gear. The SMM observed tear gas canisters and smoke bombs being thrown by both servicemen and back row protestors causing small explosions. At 13:45hrs the SMM heard a very loud explosion assessed to have been a grenade explosion. After the explosion, the SMM observed wounded servicemen bleeding heavily and some protestors with less serious injuries. Representatives of the Ministry of Interior confirmed that approximately120 servicemen were injured, four of them seriously, and that one had died.

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

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

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the 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, particularly those controlled by the “LPR”, have ordinarily been placed off limits to the SMM.

Denied access:

  • In “DPR”-controlled Sontseve, the SMM was stopped by two armed “DPR” members, who denied the SMM further access to the area. When asked, they stated they were not authorized to provide an explanation for the denial of access. The SMM could not proceed further.
  • A “DPR” member denied the SMM access to a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, citing an order not to allow the SMM to proceed to the area.

Delayed access:

  • At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM had to wait for 25 minutes before a checkpoint commander arrived and allowed the SMM to proceed.

Interference with the UAV:

  • While flying 1.5km south of “DPR”-controlled Sontseve, all contact with a SMM UAV was abruptly lost. Following due procedures, after 3.5 hours without contact, the UAV was declared lost.

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

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

Human Rights