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

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region and more in Luhansk region compared with the previous reporting period. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas; it recorded ceasefire violations near the Petrivske and Zolote disengagement areas. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere.* It facilitated and monitored repairs and maintenance of essential infrastructure in Shchastia, Vesela Hora, Orikhove, Kashtanove, and Zalizne.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations[1], including about 60 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 560 explosions).                                               

On the evening of 16 November, while in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 11 undetermined explosions 7-10km south-west as well as about ten bursts of small-arms fire 3-5km south-west. The following day, positioned at the north-western edge of Horlivka, the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions 6-8km south-west.

On the evening of 16 November, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, an undetermined explosion, two projectiles in flight from east to west, three undetermined explosions, a projectile from east to west, a projectile from west to east, an undetermined explosion, eight projectiles from east to west, an undetermined explosion, four projectiles from east to west, an undetermined explosion, 15 projectiles from east to west, a projectile from west to east, four undetermined explosions, seven projectiles from east to west, two undetermined explosions, a projectile from south to north, and two undetermined explosions, all 0.5-1.5km south. At 19:36 on 16 November, the camera recorded a projectile in flight from south-west to north-east and a subsequent impact explosion close to the camera (see SMM Daily 17 November 2017). The explosion was assessed as caused by the round of a rocket-propelled grenade or portable anti-tank recoilless gun fired approximately 250-450m from a southerly direction, in the vicinity of known “DPR” forward positions.

The following evening, the same camera recorded, in sequence, two undetermined explosions, 23 projectiles in flight from east to west, two undetermined explosions, 22 projectiles from east to west, an undetermined explosion, a projectile from east to west, five undetermined explosions, a tracer round in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, a tracer round from east to west, four undetermined explosions, nine tracer rounds from east to west, a tracer round from west to east, two undetermined explosions, a tracer round from east to west, and ten undetermined explosions, all 0.5-1.5km south.

On the evening and night of 16-17 November, the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded, in sequence, an undetermined explosion, five projectiles in flight from east to west, two undetermined explosions, three projectiles from east to west, two undetermined explosions, two illumination flares in vertical flight, 16 tracer rounds in flight from west to east, four tracer rounds from east to west, a tracer round from south-west to north-east, an undetermined explosion, six tracer rounds from south-east to north-west, a projectile from west to east, a tracer round from east to west, ten tracer rounds from west to east, three tracer rounds from south-west to north-east, nine projectiles from south-east to north-west, two tracer rounds from west to east, a projectile from west to east, an undetermined explosion, a projectile and three tracer rounds from east to west, a projectile and ten tracer rounds from south-east to north-west, an undetermined explosion, nine tracer rounds from east to west, 14 tracer rounds from south-east to north-west, three tracer rounds from north-west to south-east, 12 tracer rounds from south-east to north-west, three tracer rounds from south-west to north-east, seven tracer rounds from south-east to north-west, 19 tracer rounds from east to west, 11 tracer rounds from west to east, and a tracer round from east to west, all 5-8km north.

The following evening, the same camera recorded, in sequence, 11 projectiles in flight from west to east, a projectile from east to west, three projectiles from west to east, an airburst, two projectiles from west to east, a projectile from east to west, two projectiles from west to east, a projectile from east to west, and six undetermined explosions, all 5-8km north.

On 17 November, positioned 2.6km west-north-west of the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about five hours, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions 10-15km north-west and eight undetermined explosions 1-3km west.

On 17 November, positioned on the south-western edge of government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) for about five hours, the SMM heard six undetermined explosions and bursts and shots of small-arms fire 1-3km south-east, as well as three explosions assessed as outgoing rounds of undetermined weapons 1-2km east and three explosions assessed as the resultant impacts 4-5km south-east.

On 17 November, positioned in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard seven undetermined explosions 6-8km east and six undetermined explosions 10km east-north-east.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations, including about 70 explosions compared with the previous reporting period (about 60 explosions).

On 17 November, positioned on the south-eastern outskirts of “LPR”-controlled Holubivske (51km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard about 30 undetermined explosions, as well as 11 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire and 17 shots of small-arms fire, 10-15km north-east. The same day, positioned in Holubivske, the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions 10-15km north-east, three undetermined explosions 10-15km west and three undetermined explosions 6-10km north-north-west.

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 evening of 14 November, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded, in sequence, an undetermined explosion, 47 tracer rounds in flight from west to east, two illumination flares in vertical flight, seven tracer rounds from west to east, a projectile in flight from north-west to south-east, ten tracer rounds from west to east, a projectile from north to south, seven tracer rounds from south-west to north-east, seven tracer rounds from west to east, 21 tracer rounds from east to west, six projectiles from north-east to south-west, and seven tracer rounds from west to east, all 0.5-3km at directions ranging from south to west-south-west; the Mission was unable to assess whether these explosions occurred inside or outside the disengagement area.

On 17 November, positioned at the disengagement areas near government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska and non-government-controlled Petrivske, as well as west of the Petrivske disengagement area in Bohdanivka (41km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed calm situations.

On 17 November, positioned at the “LPR” checkpoint at the southern edge of Zolote (60km west of Luhansk), outside the disengagement area, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions 5-8km west, assessed as outside the disengagement area. In the eastern outskirts of government-controlled Zolote (outside the disengagement area), the SMM observed a mobile checkpoint with a camouflage-painted armoured personnel carrier (APC) (BRDM-variant) emblazoned “Luhansk Battalion” and seven armed men in military-type clothing that were stopping and searching civilian vehicles coming from the direction of the disengagement area.

At the “LPR” checkpoint at the eastern edge of the Zolote disengagement area, the SMM noted that a 2m by 10cm stretch of roadside near the checkpoint had been cleared of vegetation. (Previously, the SMM had observed vegetation removal works near the “LPR” checkpoint on the southern edge of the same disengagement area. (See SMM Daily 14 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.

Outside designated storage sites in non-government-controlled Shymshynivka (27km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM saw several artillery pieces (type unknown) in a training area.

The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage does not comply with the criteria set out in the 16 October 2015 notification from the SMM to the signatories of the Package of Measures on effective monitoring and verification of the withdrawal of heavy weapons. In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM saw six anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) and noted that 12 anti-tank guns (MT-12) continued to be missing.

The SMM observed the presence of armoured combat vehicles[2] and tank tracks in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BTR-4) near Stepanivka (36km west of Donetsk), an APC (Kozak-2) with a heavy machine-gun (14.5mm) affixed to its turret in Orikhove (57km north-west of Luhansk), an APC (BRDM-variant) near Zolote (see above), and tracks of a tank (T-64) chassis near Hranitne (25km north of Mariupol).

The SMM observed the presence of ammunition remnants in “LPR”-controlled Kruta Hora (16km north-west of Luhansk). For the first time, the SMM saw two piles of remnants including tailfin fragments of at least 12 IFV (BMP-1) cannon (73mm) rounds and about five mortar (82mm) rounds. The SMM assessed that the fragments were, at most, a few days old. The piles were just south of the road leading from Kruta Hora to “LPR”-controlled Raivka (16km north-west of Luhansk).

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs, co-ordinated by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), to the power plant in government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), power lines near “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), railroad tracks near Orikhove, the Troitske-Novozvanivka power line in government-controlled Novozvanivka (70km west of Luhansk), the Petrivske pumping station in government-controlled Artema (26km north of Luhansk), a gas pipeline near “DPR”-controlled Kashtanove (13km north of Donetsk), leading to the Donetsk Filtration Station, and to the phenol sludge reservoir in government-controlled Zalizne (formerly Artemove, 42km north-east of Donetsk).

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

*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, unexploded ordnance (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 12 November 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:

Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:

  • 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. Ukrainian Armed Forces officers of the JCCC at a checkpoint on the northern side of the Zolote disengagement area told the SMM that its access to the disengagement area is granted but that he could not guarantee its safety. He stated that he had been newly instructed by his supervisors not to provide any information regarding demining activities around the checkpoint area or within the disengagement area to the SMM, adding that the SMM should address its questions to the JCCC headquarters in Soledar. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • 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 did not consider it safe to 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.

[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.