Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 17 December 2017

This report is for the media and the general public

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions between the evenings of 15 and 16 December compared with the previous reporting period. The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region and fewer in Luhansk region between the evenings of 16 and 17 December compared with the previous 24 hours. The Mission assessed impact sites near residential areas on the eastern outskirts of Popasna caused by shelling. The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations near all three. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including in Trokhizbenka.* The Mission continued to observe long queues at the entry-exit checkpoint near Stanytsia Luhanska. The SMM facilitated and monitored repairs of essential infrastructure near Travneve, Dovhe, and in Raivka. The Mission visited five border areas outside of government control. In Kyiv, it monitored a march and a gathering in the city centre, and the aftermath of reported incidents and clashes between the crowd and police.

In Donetsk region, between the evenings of 15 and 16 December, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations,[1] including about 560 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 430 explosions). Between the evenings of 16 and 17 December, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations, including a similar number of explosions (about 570), compared with the previous 24 hours.

On the evening and night of 15-16 December, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, two undetermined explosions, four projectiles in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, an illumination flare in vertical flight, three projectiles from west to east and an undetermined explosion, followed by a total of nine undetermined explosions and 58 projectiles (37 from east to west, 17 from west to east and four from south-east to north-west), all 0.5-1km south. During the day on 16 December, the camera recorded, in sequence, 13 projectiles in flight from west to east, two projectiles from east to west and an undetermined explosion, followed by a total of 12 undetermined explosions, about 190 projectiles (130 from west to east, 57 from east to west and one from north-east to south-west) and three illumination flares in vertical flight, all 0.5-1km south.

On the evening and night of 16-17 December, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station recorded, in sequence, nine projectiles in flight from west to east, two projectiles from east to west and three undetermined explosions, followed by a total of 32 undetermined explosions, 276 projectiles (171 from west to east, 97 from east to west, seven from south-east to north-west and one from north to south) and an illumination flare in vertical flight, all 0.5-1km south. During the day on 17 December, the camera recorded, in sequence, an undetermined explosion, three projectiles from west to east, an undetermined explosion and five projectiles from east to west, followed by a total of five undetermined explosions and 35 projectiles (20 from west to east and 15 from east to west), all 0.5-1km south.

During the day on 16 December, the SMM camera 1km south-west of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded, in sequence, a projectile in flight from west to east, 58 projectiles from east to west, a projectile from west to east, 32 projectiles from east to west, three projectiles from west to east and two projectiles from east to west, all 5-8km north. On the evening and night of 16-17 December, the camera recorded, in sequence, four projectiles from east to west, two undetermined explosions, ten tracer rounds in flight and 21 projectiles from east to west, a projectile from west to east and 15 projectiles from east to west, all 5-8km north.

During the day on 17 December, the SMM camera 1km south-west of Shyrokyne recorded, in sequence, six projectiles in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, nine projectiles and two tracer rounds in flight from east to west and an undetermined explosion, followed by a total of 81 projectiles (80 from east to west and one from west to east), all 5-8km north.

During the day on 16 December, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about four hours, the SMM heard 34 undetermined explosions, about 70 bursts and shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire and about 20 minutes of uncountable overlapping shots of small-arms fire, all 2-5km at westerly directions, as well as about 90 bursts and shots of small-arms fire 2-5km at directions ranging from west to east-north-east. On the same day, the SMM also heard about 160 bursts and shots of small-arms fire 2-5km east-south-east and south-east, assessed as live-fire training inside the security zone, in violation of the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group of 3 March 2016 that prohibits the conduct of live-fire training (exercises) in the security zone.

During the day on 17 December, positioned at the railway station in Yasynuvata, the SMM heard 37 explosions (one assessed as an impact and the remainder undetermined) and about 310 bursts and shots of automatic-grenade-launcher, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 1-8km at directions ranging from south-west to north-west.

During the day on 16 December, positioned on the south-western edge of government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) for about six hours, the SMM heard 14 undetermined explosions and a minute of uncountable overlapping shots of small-arms fire, all 2-4km east, east-south-east and south-south-east.

During the day on 16 December, positioned about 2km south-east of DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM about heard 55 explosions assessed as under-barrel grenade-launcher rounds at unknown distances west-south-west, as well as about 70 bursts and shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire 1-3km south-west and west-south-west.

During the day on 16 December, positioned 1km north-west of the entry-exit checkpoint in government-controlled Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard 54 undetermined explosions at unknown distances east, as well as heard and saw six explosions assessed as impacts (three of which were artillery rounds) 1-5km south-east and south-south-east.

During the day on 16 December, positioned on the south-western edge of government-controlled Lebedynske (16km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard 75 explosions (40 assessed as impacts of artillery rounds and 35 assessed as outgoing) and about 150 bursts of anti-aircraft cannon (ZU-23, 23mm) and heavy-machine-gun fire, all at unknown distances south-south-east.

On the evening of 16 December, while in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 45 undetermined explosions 5-8km north-west and 12 undetermined explosions 3-8km west.

On the evening and night of 15-16 December, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 48 explosions assessed as impacts of artillery rounds and 20 explosions assessed as outgoing infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-1) cannon (73mm) rounds 6-8km south-east, as well as about 200 bursts and shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire 5-9km at southerly directions. During the day on 16 December, while at the same location, the SMM heard 33 explosions assessed as outgoing tank rounds and ten as outgoing IFV (BMP-1) rounds, all 6-8km south-east, as well as 28 explosions assessed as impacts of artillery and mortar rounds, four undetermined explosions and about 220 bursts and shots of IFV (BMP-2) cannon (30mm), heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 5-8km at southerly directions.

On the evening of 16 December, while in Svitlodarsk, the SMM heard five explosions assessed as impacts of artillery rounds and about 140 bursts and shots of IFV (BMP-2) cannon, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 5-9km south-east. During the day on 17 December, while at the same location, the SMM heard 240 explosions assessed as outgoing artillery rounds 2-5km north and north-east and their subsequent impacts 5-8km south-east and south-south-east, as well as about 180 explosions (68 assessed as outgoing tank and artillery rounds, 39 as outgoing IFV (BMP-1) cannon rounds, 37 as impacts of artillery rounds, 20 as mortar rounds and the remainder undetermined) and at least 1000 bursts of IFV (BMP-2) cannon, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 4-8km south-east and south-south-east.

During the day on 16 December, positioned on the northern edge of “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk) for about five and a half hours, the SMM heard three undetermined explosions 6-7km north-east, two undetermined explosions 6-7km north-west, three undetermined explosions 6-7km east and ten undetermined explosions 6-7km west.

During the day on 16 December, positioned in government-controlled Novoluhanske (53km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 15 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire 2-3km west.

During the day on 17 December, while in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk) for about five hours, the SMM heard about 20 minutes of uncountable overlapping undetermined explosions followed by ten undetermined explosions 2-5km west-north-west and north-west.

In Luhansk region, between the evenings of 15 and 16 December, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations, including about 330 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (80 explosions). Between the evenings of 16 and 17 December, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including fewer explosions (about 240), compared with the previous 24 hours.

On the evening of 15 December, while in “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk), in about two hours, the SMM heard about 240 undetermined explosions 12-18km west-south-west and west.

On the evening and night of 15-16 December, while on the northern edge of government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard eight explosions assessed as outgoing IFV (BMP-1) cannon rounds and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 3-4km south-west. On the evening and night of 16-17 December, while at the same location, the SMM heard 22 explosions assessed as outgoing IFV (BMP-1) cannon rounds, and 213 undetermined explosions and small-arms fire, all 3-4km south-east and south.

During the day on 17 December, positioned in government-controlled Muratove (51km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM heard an undetermined explosion and about 120 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 1-5km east and south-east and assessed as live-fire training inside the security zone, in violation of the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group as of 3 March 2016 that prohibits the conduct of live-fire training (exercises) in the security zone.

On 16 December, the SMM assessed impact sites near Popasna caused by shelling. At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint about 3km north-east of Popasna, the SMM saw two fresh craters surrounded by shattered large bushes and small trees; the first was about 750m west of the checkpoint, next to a communications tower, and the second was 20-25m further south. Both were assessed as having been caused by mortar (120mm) or artillery rounds fired from a south-easterly direction. The SMM noted that the nearest residential house was about 1km south-west of the two craters.

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 the night of 13-14 December, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded a projectile in flight from east to west at an unknown distance south (unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area). During the day on 14 December, the camera recorded 21 projectiles (15 from west to east, four from north-south and two from east to west), all at unknown distances south (unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area). On the evening of 14 December, the camera recorded two undetermined explosions and 19 projectiles (ten from west to east, four from east to west, three from south to north, one from south-east to north-west and one in vertical flight), all at unknown distances at southerly directions (unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area).

During the day on 17 December, positioned in Petrivske, the SMM heard 19 shots and bursts of small-arms fire 2-4km south-east (assessed as outside the disengagement area).

On the evening of 15 December, while on the eastern edge of government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska, the SMM heard 68 explosions (11 assessed as impacts of automatic-grenade-launcher rounds and the remainder undetermined) and about 200 shots and bursts of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 4-6km south-west (all assessed as outside the disengagement area), as well as 17 explosions assessed as impacts of automatic-grenade-launcher rounds 3-5km south-east (assessed as outside the disengagement area). On the evening of 16 December, while at the same location, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 3-4km south-west (assessed as outside the disengagement area).

On the evening of 16 December, SMM camera in Stanytsia Luhanska recorded an explosion assessed as an impact 2.3km south-south-east (assessed as outside the disengagement area).  The same explosion was recorded 160m east-north-east by another SMM camera near the Prince Ihor monument south-east of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (15km north-east of Luhansk).

During the day on 17 December, positioned in government-controlled Zolote-4 (60km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard an explosion assessed as an impact of an artillery round 4km south-south-west (assessed as outside the disengagement area).

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

Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, in government-controlled areas, on 16 December, the SMM observed a surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa) 10km south-east of Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk), two tanks (type-unknown) near Krasne (65km north of Donetsk) and, on 13 December, an SMM mid-range unmanned aerial vehicle spotted 13 tanks (T-72) near Oleksandro-Kalynove (47km north of Donetsk).

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles and an anti-aircraft gun[2] in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, on 16 December, the SMM saw eight IFVs (BMP-1) and two reconnaissance vehicles (a BRDM-2 and a BRM-1K) near Popasna and two armoured personnel carriers (APC) (BTR-60) near Orikhove-Donetske (44km north-west of Luhansk). On 17 December, the SMM saw nine IFVs (BMP-1) and three reconnaissance vehicles (a BRDM-2 and two BRM-1K) near Popasna, a reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) near Muratove and an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) mounted on a military-type truck (Kraz) near Vershyna (63km north-east of Donetsk).

In an area outside of government control, on 17 December, the SMM saw an APC (BTR-variant) near Petrivske.

The SMM observed unexploded ordnance(UXO). On 16 December, in Stanytsia Luhanska, the SMM saw, for the first time, an unexploded grenade (RPG-7) embedded in soft ground in front of a house at 80 Svobody Street. The SMM assessed that the grenade had been fired from an easterly direction. A female resident of the house (aged in her fifties) said that it had landed there between 19:00 and 19:30 on 15 December. Later that day, the SMM saw that the grenade had been removed.

The SMM continued to observe long queues at the entry-exit checkpoint near Stanytsia Luhanska. At the government checkpoint north of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, at 13:15 on 16 December, the SMM saw about 250 pedestrians queuing to travel further into government-controlled areas and about 500 pedestrians queuing to travel in the opposite direction. About two hours later, at the same checkpoint, the SMM saw no pedestrians queuing to travel further into government-controlled areas and about 500 pedestrians queuing to travel in the opposite direction. On 17 December, at 09:05, the SMM saw about 500 pedestrians queueing to travel further into government-controlled areas and about 500 people in the opposite direction. About six hours later, the SMM observed a similar number of people queueing in both directions. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) told the SMM that about 560 people on 15 December and about 250 people on 16 December, queuing to travel from government-controlled areas toward non-government-controlled areas, had not been able to pass through the checkpoint before it closed at 16:30.

At an “LPR” checkpoint south of the bridge, at 09:40 on 16 December, the SMM saw about 2,000 pedestrians queuing to travel toward government-controlled areas and about 300 queuing in the opposite direction. On 17 December, between 08:40 and 12:00, the SMM saw about 2,500 pedestrians queueing to travel toward government-controlled areas and about 2,000 pedestrians queuing in the opposite direction.

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs and maintenance works, co‑ordinated by the JCCC, on 16 December, to power lines near Travneve (51km north-east of Donetsk) (a Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC informed the SMM that repairs were interrupted due to shelling, see ceasefire violations section above), to power lines near “LPR”-controlled Dovhe (22km south-west of Luhansk) and to the power substation in “LPR”-controlled Raivka (16km north-west of Luhansk). 

The SMM visited five border areas outside of government control. On 16 December, at a border crossing near Marynivka (78km south-east of Donetsk), during about 25 minutes, the SMM saw 21 cars (seven with “DPR” plates) exiting Ukraine and four cars entering Ukraine.

At a border crossing point near Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), during about an hour, the SMM saw 21 cars (seven with “DPR” plates), two minivans (one with “DPR” plates), 11 covered cargo trucks (one with “DPR” plates), a fuel tanker (with “DPR” plates), a bus and four pedestrians exiting Ukraine, and 13 cars (six with “DPR” plates), four minivans (one with “DPR” plates), four covered cargo trucks, two buses and 16 pedestrians entering Ukraine.

At the border crossing point near Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk), during about an hour, the SMM saw 44 cars (eight with “LPR” plates), three covered cargo trucks (one with “LPR” plates), a bus and 40 pedestrians (30 women and ten men, aged 15-80) exiting Ukraine, and 31 cars, a bus and 12 pedestrians (seven women and five men, aged 20-50) entering Ukraine.

At a pedestrian border crossing point near Verkhnoharasymivka (57km south-east of Luhansk), during about 20 minutes, the SMM saw five pedestrians (three women and two men, aged 40-60) exiting Ukraine and one pedestrian (a man in his forties) entering Ukraine.

At a pedestrian border crossing point near Novoborovytsi (79km south of Luhansk), during about half an hour, the SMM saw two pedestrians (three men and a woman, aged 40-60) exiting Ukraine.

In Kyiv, the SMM monitored gatherings in the city centre. On 17 December, between 12:30 and 14:15, the SMM saw about 10,000 people (60 per cent men and 40 per cent women, mixed ages) marching from Shevchenko Park to Independence Square. Some of the participants were carrying flags of political parties and movements and chanting slogans critical of the Government. The Mission saw and heard several speakers, including Mikheil Saakashvili and members of the Parliament, address the crowd. The SMM observed about 500 police and National Guard officers, about 100 of whom were wearing riot gear. (See SMM Daily Report 11 December 2017.) No incidents were observed while the SMM was present.

After the march, the SMM saw about 1000 people (both men and women, mixed ages) gathered in front of Zhovtnevyi Palace, carrying flags of political parties and movements. The SMM saw that the Palace had been sealed off by about 50 police and National Guard officers. No incidents were observed while the SMM was present until 15:15. At 18:00, the SMM returned to the Palace and noted that the crowd had dispersed, reportedly following incidents and clashes with police. The SMM saw remains of flares on the ground and that the windows of the entrance door had been broken. The SMM saw about 30 police officers securing the area.

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 13 December 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:

  • On 17 December, at a checkpoint on the southern outskirts of government-controlled Trokhizbenka (32km north-west of Luhansk), an armed Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier prevented the SMM from proceeding towards Trokhizbenka, citing orders from his superiors.

Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:

  • On 16 and 17 December, 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 on both occasions.
  • On 16 and 17 December, the SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads in the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. Ukrainian Armed Forces officers 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 on both occasions.
  • On 16 and 17 December, 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 de-mining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC on both occasions.
  • On 16 and 17 December, the SMM could not travel across the bridge in Shchastia due to the presence of mines. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM informed the JCCC on both occasions.

[1]Please see the annexed table 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. Four SMM cameras continue to be tested until the end of December 2017.

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