Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 1 November 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared with the previous reporting period. In Luhansk region the Mission recorded a similar number of ceasefire violations – including, however, more explosions – compared with the previous reporting period. It followed up on a report of a civilian casualty in Dmytrivka. The SMM observed damage to houses due to shelling in Uzhivka. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas and, while there, observed calm situations at each one; its access remained restricted in all three areas and elsewhere, including in Novolaspa and Siedove near the border with the Russian Federation.* The SMM saw weapons in violation of withdrawal lines in Novoaidar and Lysychansk. The Mission visited four border areas not under government control.In Kyiv, the SMM monitored a gathering in front of the Cabinet of Ministers building and continued to monitor the gathering in front of the national Parliament building.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations,[1] including about 150 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 80 explosions).

On the evening of 31 October, the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, four projectiles from north-east to south-west, a projectile from south-west to north-east, and an undetermined explosion, all 4-6km south-south-east. The following morning, the camera recorded, in sequence, a projectile from north-east to south-west, ten projectiles from south-west to north-east, six undetermined explosions, and an illumination flare in flight from south-west to north-east, all 4-6km south-south-east.

On the evening and night of 31 October to 1 November, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, four projectiles in flight from east to west, a projectile from north-west to south-east, two projectiles from east to west, an undetermined explosion, a projectile from west to east, two undetermined explosions, 12 projectiles from west to east, 18 projectiles from north-west to south-east, two undetermined explosions, and two projectiles from north-west to south-east, all at undetermined distances south. In the early evening of 1 November, the camera recorded, in sequence, 20 projectiles from west to east, eight projectiles from east to west, and 12 projectiles from north to south, all 0.5-1km south.

During the day on 1 November, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for over three hours, the SMM heard 11 undetermined explosions and about 75 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 1-5km at directions ranging from south-west to north-west. Positioned on the south-western edge of Yasynuvata for two and a half hours, the SMM heard 26 undetermined explosions, over 50 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun fire, and over 430 bursts and shots of small-arms fire, all 1-3km at directions ranging from west-south-west to north-north-west.

On the evening of 31 October, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 24 undetermined explosions and about 50 bursts and 15 shots of small-arms fire, all 3-6km south-east and south-west.

In the early morning of 1 November, while in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 60 undetermined explosions 4-8km west-north-west.

During the day, positioned at a “DPR” checkpoint 7km north of “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard two explosions assessed as impacts of mortar (120mm) rounds 4km west and one undetermined explosion 4km south-east.

Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (20km south-west of Donetsk) for almost two hours, the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions, as well as small-arms fire, 1-3km west and north-west.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded a similar number of ceasefire violations – including, however, more explosions (30) – compared with the previous reporting period (about ten explosions).

Shortly before midnight on 31 October, while in “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard three explosions assessed as impacts 5-6km west and two undetermined explosions at least 10km north-north-west. In the early evening of 1 November, while in the same location, the SMM heard 25 undetermined explosions 15km west.

The SMM followed up on a report of a civilian casualty. At a medical centre in “DPR”-controlled Dmytrivka (85km east of Donetsk), medical staff told the SMM that a man (aged 45) had been admitted on 19 October with shrapnel wounds to his right leg, chin and neck. They said he had been treated and then transferred to another hospital. The staff added that the man had told them he had stepped on an object in the garden of his relative’s house at 195 Tsentralna Street in Dmytrivka on 9 October, and that the object had then exploded. At the address, a neighbour told the SMM that, on the day of the incident, she had heard an explosion by the house at 195 Tsentralna. Another neighbour separately told the Mission that he also had heard an explosion that day by the same house, and that he had seen the injured man. A relative of the injured man told the SMM by telephone that the man was being treated in a hospital in “DPR”-controlled Chystiakove (formerly Torez, 62km east of Donetsk).

The SMM followed up on a report of casualties from an incident in “DPR”-controlled Khartsyzk (26km east of Donetsk). At a morgue in the town, a staff member told the SMM that the body of a man (aged 27) had been brought there on 1 October, and that the body had shrapnel injuries to the right thigh and damage to blood vessels and a vein. The morgue logbook indicated that the injuries were due to the explosion of a grenade. At a hospital in the same town, medical staff told the SMM that a man (aged 22) who they said had been injured in the same incident was being treated at the hospital.

The SMM observed damage to houses due to shelling in “DPR”-controlled Uzhivka (formerly Leninske, 24km north-east of Mariupol), accompanied by a Russian Federation Armed Forces officer of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC). At a house at 74/1 Serhiivska Street, the Mission saw two north-facing broken windows and shrapnel damage to a fence north of the house, and a fresh impact site in the street on the north side of the house, assessed as caused by a round of an undetermined weapon fired from a south-south-westerly direction. The owner of the house (a woman in her sixties) told the SMM that the impact had occurred at about 19:00 on 31 October. In a garden south-west of a house at 11/2 Serhiivska Street, the SMM saw a fresh impact site, but it could not assess the type of weapon used or the direction of fire. The SMM did not observe any damage to the property. The owner (a woman in her fifties) told the Mission that the impact had occurred at about 19:00 on 31 October. On the west side of a house at 10 Havrylenka Street, the SMM saw four windows boarded up with wooden planks and shrapnel damage to the house’s wall, a tree, and an electric pole. The SMM could not assess the type of weapon used or the direction of fire. The owner of the house (a woman in her eighties) told the Mission that the impact had occurred at about 18:00 on 31 October.

The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas near 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 2016. The SMM’s access remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*

On 1 November, positioned near all three disengagement areas, the SMM observed calm situations.

Further review of imagery recorded by the SMM camera in Stanytsia Luhanska revealed that an observed object in the late afternoon of 26 October was in fact not a ceasefire violation, as initially assessed. (See SMM Daily Report 27 October 2017.)

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, in implementation of the Package of Measures and its Addendum, as well as the Memorandum.

In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, in a government-controlled area, the SMM saw two self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) being transported on trucks heading west in Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk) and three towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm) being towed by trucks headed east in Lysychansk (75km north-west of Luhansk).

Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, in government-controlled areas, the SMM saw 15 tanks (T-64) at the railway station in Rubizhne (84km north-west of Luhansk) and three self-propelled howitzers (2S19 Msta-S, 152mm) north of Sievierodonetsk (74km north-west of Luhansk).

In non-government-controlled areas, aerial imagery revealed the presence on 19 October of 23 tanks (probable T-64) north-east of Kruhlyk (31km south-west of Luhansk), nine fewer than were present on 25 September. (See SMM Daily Report 27 September 2017.)

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[2] in the security zone. In government‑controlled areas, the SMM saw a stationary armoured personnel carrier (APC) (BTR-80) near Serednoteple (28km north of Luhansk) and an APC (BTR-80) near Teple (31km north of Luhansk).

In non-government-controlled areas, the SMM saw three APCs (BTR-80) and three mobile command-type vehicles heading north in Kadiivka.

On 31 October, at a checkpoint on the northern edge of “DPR”-controlled Novoazovsk (40km east of Mariupol), the SMM saw a man in dark green digital camouflage clothing with a shoulder patch bearing the image of a black bat on a blue background surrounded by a yellow ring. The man had an assault rifle (AK-74), which the SMM assessed as new.

The SMM observed mine hazard signs and demining activities. On the eastern outskirts of government-controlled Myrna Dolyna (67km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM saw 12 men in State Emergency Service uniforms placing red-and-white signs, assessed as warning signs, in a field 300m east of the road. In government-controlled Svatove (125km north-west of Luhansk), at a former ammunition storage site that exploded in 2015 (see SMM Daily Report 7 November 2015), the SMM saw a team of 15 de-miners with an excavator, bulldozer, and truck. The head of the team told the Mission that the team was searching the area for unexploded ordnance (UXO).

The SMM visited four border areas not under government control.* During 20 minutes at a border crossing point near Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM saw four cars (one with Ukrainian licence plates and three with “DPR” plates) in a parking lot. During one hour at a border crossing point near Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM saw 15 cars (seven with Ukrainian, three with Russian Federation, and two with Lithuanian licence plates, and three with “DPR” plates), 45 trucks with covered cargo areas (40 with Ukrainian and one with Russian Federation licence plates, and four with “DPR” plates), and two buses (one with Ukrainian licence plates and one with “DPR” plates) in queues to exit Ukraine, and 28 cars (11 with Ukrainian and 15 with Russian Federation licence plates, and two with “DPR” plates), four natural gas trucks (one with Russian Federation licence plates and three with “DPR” plates), two buses (Ukrainian licence plates), and three pedestrians entering Ukraine.

During one hour at a border crossing point near Verkhnoharasymivka (57km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw 17 parked cars (11 with Ukrainian and one with Russian Federation licence plates, and five with “LPR” plates), three pedestrians (one woman and two men, aged 30-50) exiting Ukraine, and five pedestrians (men, aged 30-50) entering Ukraine. During one hour at a border crossing point near Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw 29 cars (12 with Ukrainian and seven with Russian Federation licence plates, three with “LPR” plates, and seven with plates not observed by the SMM) and 27 pedestrians (15 men, ten women, and two children) in queues to exit Ukraine, and seven cars and 18 pedestrians (14 women and four men) entering Ukraine.

In Kyiv, the SMM monitored a gathering in front of the Cabinet of Ministers building. The Mission saw about 4,000 people (women and men, different age groups), some of whom carried blue flags with the words “Association of Education and Science Employees”. Speakers expressed opposition to what they said were cuts in the national budget for education and science. About 30 National Guard and police officers were present. The gathering ended peacefully.

Also in Kyiv, the SMM continued to monitor the gathering in front of the national Parliament building. (See SMM Daily Report 1 November 2017.) The SMM saw about 50 people (mostly men, aged 30-60) and about 20 tents near the Parliament building on Hrushevskoho Street. Improvised wooden barricades blocked traffic on Hrushevskoho Street between Shovkovychna Street and Lypska Street. When the SMM arrived at the area, masked men checked bags belonging to Mission members, after which the SMM was allowed to enter the area. Six or seven police officers were in front of the Parliament building. The SMM did not observe any incidents during its presence.

The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Chernivtsi.

*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, 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. Nonetheless, the armed formations in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions frequently deny the SMM access to areas adjacent to Ukraine’s border outside control of the Government, citing orders to do so. (See, for example, SMM Daily Report 23 October 2017.) The SMM’s operations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions remained restricted following the fatal incident of 23 April near Pryshyb; these restrictions continued to limit the Mission’s observations.

Denial of access:

  • Armed persons in “DPR”-controlled Novolaspa (50km south of Donetsk) denied the SMM access to two streets, stating that there were mines present. The SMM noted that the streets were paved and that civilians were walking and driving on the street. The Mission informed the JCCC.
  • Four armed persons at a checkpoint north of “DPR”-controlled Siedove (106km south of Donetsk) denied the SMM access to the town, which the Mission has been unable to visit since April. The SMM informed the JCCC.

Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:

  • The SMM was prevented from accessing parts of the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area, with the exception of the main road, due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that no demining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads south of the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. Armed “LPR” members positioned on the southern side of the Zolote disengagement area told the SMM that no demining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads in the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC at a checkpoint on the northern side of the Zolote disengagement area told the SMM that no demining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.

[1] Please see the annexed report for a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as a map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report. During this reporting period the SMM camera at the Oktiabr mine (Donetsk) remained non-operational.

[2] This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.