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

This report is for the media and the general public

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions compared with the previous reporting period. The SMM heard explosions less than 600m from its forward patrol base in Popasna; subsequently, SMM staff left the base. The SMM followed up on reports of civilian casualties from Novoluhanske, Kadiivka and Holmivskyi. The SMM assessed damage to civilian properties in residential areas in Pervomaisk and Kadiivka. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area and near all three. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere.* In Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, the SMM followed up on the withdrawal of Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC); it monitored their passing through the entry-exit checkpoint near Maiorsk and exiting Ukraine at a border crossing point in Kharkiv region. The SMM visited three border areas outside of government control.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations[1], including about 980 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 650 explosions).

On the night of 18-19 December, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, a projectile in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, a projectile in vertical flight, 14 projectiles from east to west, a projectile from west to east, followed by a total of about 30 explosions, an airburst and about 500 projectiles (about 190 from east to west and 305 from west to east), all 0.5-1.5km south. During the day on 19 December, the camera recorded, in sequence, 34 projectiles in flight from east to west, eight undetermined explosions, followed by a total of an airburst and 64 projectiles (63 from east to west and one from west to east), all 0.5-1.5km south.

On the evening of 18 December, the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded three airbursts 3-5km south-east. During the day on 19 December, the camera recorded two tracer rounds in flight from east to west. Positioned on the south-western edge of Avdiivka for about five hours during the day on 19 December, the SMM heard about 40 undetermined explosions 2-6km at directions ranging from south-east to west.

On the night of 18-19 December, the SMM camera at the entry-exit checkpoint in government-controlled Maiorsk (45km north-east of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, nine projectiles in flight from north to south, a projectile from south to north, an undetermined explosion, followed by a total of about 170 undetermined explosions and about 150 projectiles (about 30 from south to north and about 120 from north to south), all 2-4km south-east.

On the evening of 18 December, the SMM camera at the entry-exit checkpoint in government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk) recorded three undetermined explosions 2-4km south-east.

On the night of 18-19 December, the SMM camera 1km south-west of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded, in sequence, 22 projectiles in flight from east to west, two projectiles from west to east, and an undetermined explosion, followed by a total of two undetermined explosions and about 70 projectiles (about 60 from east to west and about ten from west to east), all 5-8km north. During the day on 19 December, the camera recorded five undetermined explosions and about 30 projectiles in flight from east to west, all 5-8km north.

While in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) on the evening and night of 18 December, the SMM heard about 130 undetermined explosions and about 30 bursts and shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 2-7km at directions ranging from south-east to south-west; it also heard and saw 26 undetermined explosions 1-5km south-east and 21 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds of multiple launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) 2-3km south-east. Positioned at the same location during daytime on 19 December, the SMM heard 22 undetermined explosions 3-7km south-west.

While in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk) during the evening of 18 December, the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 2-4km east.

Positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about five hours during the day on 19 December, the SMM heard about 400 explosions and about 4,000 bursts and shots of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 1-3km at directions ranging from south-west to north-west.

Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (30km south-west of Donetsk) for about an hour and a half, the SMM heard 19 explosions (ten assessed as outgoing, seven as impacts and two undetermined) and about 50 bursts and shots of automatic-grenade-launcher, small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 2-4km west and west-north-west.

Positioned 1km north-west of government-controlled Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard about 60 undetermined explosions 5-10km east, north-east and north-north-east; six undetermined explosions at undetermined distances north-east and north-north-east; six explosions assessed as outgoing mortar rounds at undetermined distances north-east and north-north-east and their subsequent impacts 5-10km north-east and north-north-east.

In Luhansk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations, including about 950 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 240 explosions).

While in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk) on the evening of 18 December, the SMM heard about 70 undetermined explosions 4-6km south-east. The SMM also heard five undetermined explosions 500-600m north-east, followed by three explosions assessed as outgoing rounds of undetermined weapons within 1.5km south-west. SMM staff at the forward patrol base gathered near the base’s shelter and remained there during the night of 18-19 December. On the morning of 19 December, the SMM left the forward patrol base and subsequently reached government-controlled Sievierodonetsk (74km north-west of Luhansk). (See SMM Spot Report “Explosions occur less than 600m from SMM’s forward patrol base in Popasna” 19 December 2017.) Before the SMM left the base, during the morning of 19 December, while at the same location, the SMM heard about 30 undetermined explosions 8-15km south-east, about 40 undetermined explosions and about 20 bursts and shots of infantry fighting vehicle (BMP-2) cannon (30mm) fire 6-12km south-south-west, about 110 explosions assessed as outgoing mortar rounds, ten bursts of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2.5-5km south-east.  

During the evening of 18 December, while in “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard about 60 undetermined explosions 4-19km at directions ranging from south-west to west-south-west. During the day on 19 December, while at the same location, the SMM heard 300 undetermined explosions and 15 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, all 10-15km west.  

Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Irmino (54km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard about 200 undermined explosions 8-14km south-west and seven bursts of small-arms fire 3-4km west.

Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Holubivske (51km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 20 undetermined explosions 5-8km north-north-east and north-west.

Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Myrne (28km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 15 explosions assessed as artillery rounds 5km north-west assessed as part of a live fire exercise.

The SMM continued to follow up on the withdrawal of Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the JCCC from their duties. (See SMM Daily Report 19 December 2017.) On 19 December, SMM monitored the Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the JCCC crossing the contact line at the entry-exit checkpoint in Maiorsk. In Kharkiv region, at the international border crossing point near Hoptivka (33km north of Kharkiv), the SMM observed a total of 75 Russian Federation Armed Forces officers exiting Ukraine. During the same day, while in the city of Horlivka, four men wearing military-style clothes (without visible insignias) approached the SMM and introduced themselves as the “new representatives of the JCCC”. They also told the SMM that they would fulfil the task of the previous JCCC representatives. The SMM saw that the four men were driving the vehicle previously used by the Russian Armed Forces officers of the JCCC in Horlivka. In Dokuchaievsk, the SMM saw a “DPR” member present inside an office previously occupied by the Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the JCCC. The SMM also saw that he was using the same logbook which had been previously used by the JCCC.

The SMM followed up on reports of civilian casualties. On 19 December, at a hospital in Svitlodarsk, the SMM saw a woman (aged 60-70) with bandages on her head and bruises on her face, another woman (aged 60-70) with bandages on her hand and a man (aged 60-70) whose left leg was bandaged, elevated and tied up to stretching bands. Medical staff at the same hospital in Svitlodarsk told the SMM that a total of a man and six women, as well as a child, all residents of government-controlled Novoluhanske (53km north-east of Donetsk), had been admitted there on 18 December. Medical staff added that on the evening of 18 December, three women had been transferred to a hospital in government-controlled Bakhmut (formerly Artemivsk, 67km north of Donetsk) while another had been transferred to a hospital in Kharkiv. Medical staff told the SMM that, at the hospital in Svitlodarsk, two women (aged 60-70) were being treated for shrapnel wounds (one to her head and the other one to her arm); a man (aged 60-70) was also being treated for shrapnel wounds and fractures to his left leg. Medical staff added that the six-year-old child had been in a state of shock when he arrived at the hospital and was discharged on 19 December.

The SMM followed up on the civilian casualties from Novoluhanske at a hospital in Bakhmut, where it saw three women (all aged 60-70): one with shrapnel wounds to her head, one with shrapnel wounds to her shoulder and chest and one with shrapnel wounds to her right shoulder blade. Medical staff in Bakhmut told the SMM that all three women were residents of Novoluhanske had been transferred from a hospital in Svitlodarsk on the evening of 18 December.  

Medical staff at a hospital in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), where the SMM was following up on allegations of two residents of “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk) being treated there for shrapnel wounds, refused to provide the SMM with information citing the need for prior authorization from the “mayor” of Horlivka.*   

On 19 December, medical staff at a hospital in Kadiivka told the SMM that three men, all residents of Kadiivka, had been admitted to the hospital on the evening of 18 December.  Medical staff told the SMM that a man (aged 53), a resident of 6a-7 Stakhanova Street, had sustained shrapnel wounds to his left knee while he was in the yard of his house around 21:00 on 18 December. Medical staff told the SMM that a man (aged 27), a resident of 17-a-42 60 Rokiv Zhovtnia Street, had sustained shrapnel wounds to his head while he was outside the building around 21:00 on 18 December. Medical staff told the SMM that a man (aged 68), a resident of 19-1 60 Rokiv Zhovtnia Street, had sustained shrapnel wounds to his left arm, including a fracture to an upper arm bone, while he was at 19-1 60 Rokiv Zhovtnia Street, around 21:00 on 18 December.

The SMM followed up on reports of damage to civilian properties in residential areas caused by shelling. The SMM visited two impact sites in “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (58km west of Luhansk) and four in Kadiivka.

At 12 Zavodska Street in Pervomaisk, the SMM saw a fresh crater in an asphalt road. The SMM assessed it as caused by a round of an undetermined weapon fired from a west-north-westerly direction. The SMM also saw four shattered windows and fresh shrapnel damage to the northern side of a four-storey apartment building, located 20m south of the impact site. The SMM saw a military-type compound 600m west of the impact site, but it observed no presence of armed men nearby. Two residents (women, aged 60-70) told the SMM that they heard explosions in the area on 18 December at about 20:10.  

At 13 Potomkina Street in Pervomaisk, the SMM saw a fresh crater in an asphalt road. The SMM assessed that it had been caused by a round of an undetermined weapon fired from a west-north-westerly direction. The SMM also saw two shattered windows and fresh shrapnel damage to the east-facing side of an uninhabited house 6m west of the crater. The SMM saw three shattered windows and fresh shrapnel damage to the west-facing side of another house across the street, 12m east of the impact site. The SMM saw a military-type compound about 1km west of the impact site. The occupant (a man aged 45) of 13 Potomkina Street told the SMM that he was in the yard of his house when he heard explosions in the area in the evening of 18 December.  

In Kadiivka, the SMM saw a fresh crater in a field about 100m south from an apartment building at 4 Kosmichna Street. The SMM assessed that the crater had been caused by an artillery (122mm) round fired from a north-westerly direction. The SMM also observed damage to the south-east facing window and a balcony at 4 Kosmichna Street. Two occupants (men, aged 50-55) of the apartment building at 4 Kosmichna Street told the SMM separately that they heard explosions in the area for about four hours starting at about 20:00 on 18 December.

At 6a Stakhanova Street in Kadiivka, the SMM saw a fresh crater about 30m north-west of an apartment building, as well as shrapnel damage to the north-west facing side of the building. The SMM assessed that it had been caused by an artillery (122mm) round fired from a north-westerly direction.

At 10 Stakhanova Street in Kadiivka, the SMM observed a fresh crater about 10m north of an apartment building which had sustained shrapnel damage to its north-facing wall. The SMM assessed that the damage had been caused by an artillery (122mm) round fired from a north-westerly direction. Two occupants (men, aged 40-50) of an apartment building at 6a Stakhanova Street told the SMM separately that they had heard shelling in the area for about four hours starting at around 20:00 on 18 December.

The SMM saw a fresh crater about 20m north of the apartment building 19 at 60 Rokiv Zhovtnia Street and fresh shrapnel damage to the north- and south-westerly-facing walls of the building. The SMM assessed that the damage had been caused by an artillery (122mm) round fired from a north-westerly direction.

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 16 December, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded, in sequence, two undetermined explosions, 33 tracer rounds in flight from east-south-east to west-north-west, and two undetermined explosions, all at undetermined distances south and south-south-west (the SMM was unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area).

During the day on 19 December, positioned in government-controlled Zolote, the SMM heard an explosion assessed as an artillery round and four explosions assessed as mortar rounds 4-7km south-south-west (assessed as outside the disengagement area). During the same day, positioned north of the Zolote disengagement area, the SMM heard 90 explosions of mortar rounds and 15 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, all 7km south and assessed as outside the disengagement area. Positioned at the same location for almost six hours, the SMM saw that the vegetation along both sides of the road leading to Pervomaisk had not been removed.  

During the day on 19 December, positioned 100m north of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (15km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 3-5km south-west (assessed as outside the disengagement area). While on the eastern edge of Stanytsia Luhanska during the day on 19 December, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 3-5km south-south-west, assessed as inside the disengagement area.

Positioned near the Petrivske disengagement area on 19 December, the SMM observed a calm situation.

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 withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, in an area outside of government control, the SMM saw three stationary tanks (T-64) near Myrne.

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[2] in the security zone. In a government-controlled area, the SMM saw a reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) on road M03 near Bakhmut. In areas outside government control, the SMM saw an armoured personnel carrier (BTR-80) and a trench digger near Holubivske, as well as 30 armed “LPR” members close to an “LPR” checkpoint south of the bridge near government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk).

The SMM observed mine hazard signs. The SMM saw again at least 20 mine hazard signs (red squares with “Danger Mines” written in Russian) along both sides of road H20 close to a “DPR” checkpoint near Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk).

The SMM visited three border areas outside government control. During an hour-long visit to the border crossing point near Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM saw 33 cars (ten with “DPR” plates), two vans (one with “DPR” plates), 30 covered cargo trucks (two with “DPR” plates), a bus and 14 pedestrians (eight women and six men, aged 40-60) exiting Ukraine. The SMM saw 15 cars (ten with “DPR” plates) and two buses entering Ukraine.

During an hour-long visit to the border crossing point near Dovzhanske (84km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw 11 cars, two buses and ten pedestrians (five men aged 30-40, four women aged 30-35 and a child aged 10-12) exiting Ukraine. The SMM saw 14 cars (one with “LPR” plates), three trucks and six pedestrians (three women and three men, aged 40-45) entering Ukraine.

During a thirty-minute visit to the border crossing point near Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed no traffic leaving or entering Ukraine.

The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, 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 2 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:

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The SMM could not travel across the bridge in government-controlled 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.

Other impediments:

  • At a hospital in Horlivka, medical staff refused to provide information about civilian casualties to the SMM citing the need for prior authorization from the “mayor” of Horlivka.

[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.