Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 21 November 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM saw about 150 armed persons and about 30 vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers, in Luhansk city centre, as well as a convoy of military-type armoured vehicles, trucks and armed men nearDebaltseve and subsequently near Vesela Tarasivka. The Mission recorded fewer ceasefire violations in both Donetsk and Luhansk regions compared with the previous reporting period. The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Petrivske disengagement area. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including near Volnovakha and Kreminets.* The SMM saw weapons in violation on both sides of the contact line. The Mission facilitated and monitored repairs and maintenance of essential infrastructure in Zalizne, Betmanove, Vesela Hora and Shchastia, and near Troitske, Krasnyi Lyman and Artema. The SMM continued to monitor the situation of civilians travelling across the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge. It visited two border areas not under government control. The SMM monitored gatherings in Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Chernivtsi.

Following media reports on the morning of 21 November involving senior “LPR” members, outside the former Ministry of Internal Affairs building at 38 Lunacharskoho Street in Luhansk city centre the SMM observed that a section of the said street was cordoned off and saw about 150 armed persons and about 30 vehicles, including about three to five armoured personnel carriers (APC) (BTR-variant), three military-type trucks and about two to three military-type vehicles, in the surrounding area. The SMM also noticed that there were no television and radio signals available in the hotels where the SMM is accommodated. The same morning, the SMM saw a convoy of two APCs (BTR-80), six military-type trucks, and about 20 vehicles, all stationary, as well as about 50 armed persons in military-type clothes with white bands on upper arms, some of whom were in balaclavas, near Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk). Later in the day, the SMM saw a similar convoy, likely the same one as observed earlier near Debaltseve, on road M04 moving east near “LPR”-controlled Vesela Tarasivka (17km west of Luhansk) (see below) – an area where such a large number of military-type vehicles had not been observed recently.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations,[1] including about 120 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 420 explosions).

On the evening of 20 November, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard about 20 undetermined explosions and about 440 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-5km south-east. The following day, while at the same location, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 8km south-east, as well as six explosions assessed as outgoing rounds and their subsequent impacts, and 11 undetermined explosions, all 2-6km south-east and south-south-west.

On the evening of 20 November, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, two projectiles in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, eight projectiles in flight from east to west and seven undetermined explosions, all 0.5-1.5km south. In the early evening of 21 November, the same camera recorded seven projectiles in flight from west to east, all 0.5-1.5km south.

During the day on 21 November, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about five hours, the SMM heard five undetermined explosions and about 20 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-4km at directions ranging from west to north.

On the evening of 20 November, while in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 26 explosions (13 assessed as outgoing mortar (82mm) rounds and the remainder as outgoing rounds) and about 30 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and automatic-grenade-launcher fire, all 3-4km south-south-west and south-west.

During the day on 21 November, positioned in government-controlled Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 25 explosions assessed as impacts 5-7km south.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including eight explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 90 explosions).

On the evening of 20 November, while on the northern edge of government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard seven explosions assessed as impacts of automatic-grenade-launcher fire (AGS-variant, 30mm) and about 20 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-2) cannon (30mm) fire, all 5-8km south-east and south.

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 18 November, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded, in sequence, a tracer round in flight from south to north, two tracer rounds from west to east, two tracer rounds from south to north and a tracer round from west to east, all 0.5-1km south-south-west and west-south-west and assessed as inside the disengagement area. On the evening of 19 November, the same camera recorded, in sequence, five tracer rounds in flight from south to north (unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area), a tracer round from west to east (assessed as inside the disengagement area) and a tracer round from east to west (assessed as inside the disengagement area), all 0.5-1km south, and a tracer round from north to south 1-2km south-west (assessed as inside the disengagement area). About two hours later, the camera recorded 35 tracer rounds in flight from west to east, all 0.5-1km south and assessed as inside the disengagement area.

On the morning of 21 November, positioned 500m north of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, the SMM heard a burst of heavy-machine-gun fire about 1km south-west, assessed as outside the disengagement area.

During the day on 21 November, positioned near the Zolote and Petrivske disengagement areas, the SMM observed calm situations.

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 government-controlled areas, the SMM saw two self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) and a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) near Volnovakha (53km south of Donetsk).

In non-government-controlled areas, aerial imagery revealed the presence on 16 November of 26 MLRS (type unknown) about 6km south-east of Miusynsk (62km south-west of Luhansk) where previously 14 MLRS had been observed. (See SMM Daily Report 26 October 2017.)

Beyond the respective withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, in government-controlled areas, the SMM saw a tank (T-64) near Volnovakha and seven tanks (T-64) heading east 2.5km west of Zachativka (74km south-west of Donetsk).

In non-government-controlled areas, aerial imagery revealed the presence on 16 November of 24 howitzers (12 self-propelled and 12 towed), 18 tanks (type unknown) and almost 100 military-type armoured vehicles about 6km south-east of Miusynsk where previously 22 howitzers (ten self-propelled and 12 towed), 19 tanks (type unknown) and almost 100 military-type armoured vehicles had been observed. (See SMM Daily Report 26 October 2017.)

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles and an anti-aircraft gun[2]in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, aerial imagery revealed the presence on 16 November of six military-type armoured vehicles near Luhanske (59km north-east of Donetsk) and a military-type armoured vehicle near Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) (see SMM Daily Report 26 October 2017), as well as three military-type armoured vehicles near Maiorsk (45km north-east of Donetsk), a military-type armoured vehicle near Dacha (53km north of Donetsk) and a military-type armoured vehicle near Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk). On 20 November, an SMM mid-range unmanned aerial vehicle spotted an IFV (BMP-2) near Avdiivka.

In non-government-controlled areas, the SMM saw four APCs (BTR-80) and an APC (MT-LB) mounted with an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23, 23mm), all stationary near Debaltseve and two stationary APCs (BTR-variant) near Vesela Tarasivka (see above). Aerial imagery revealed the presence on 16 November of a military-type armoured vehicle near Yasynuvata.

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs and maintenance work, co‑ordinated by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), to the phenol sludge reservoir in government‑controlled Zalizne (formerly Artemove, 42km north-east of Donetsk), to the power line in Betmanove (formerly Krasnyi Partyzan, “DPR”-controlled, 23km north-east of Donetsk), to high-voltage lines between Troitske and government-controlled Novozvanivka (70km west of Luhansk), to the high-voltage power lines in “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), to water wells near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk), to the thermal power plant in Shchastia, and to the Petrivske pumping station near government-controlled Artema (26km north of Luhansk).

The SMM continued to monitor the situation of civilians travelling across the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge. On 21 November, at the government checkpoint north of the bridge, the SMM saw about 600 pedestrians queuing to travel further into government-controlled areas and no pedestrians queuing to travel in the opposite direction. At an “LPR” checkpoint south of the bridge, the SMM saw about 1,200 pedestrians queuing to travel toward government-controlled areas and about 600 pedestrians in the opposite direction. The SMM continued to note the poor condition of the wooden ramps at the broken section of the bridge, and observed its wooden planks slippery and handrails increasingly unstable. The SMM assessed that walking over the wooden ramps poses a security risk to pedestrians, including SMM monitors.

The SMM visited two border areas not under government control. At the border crossing point near Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk), during one hour, the SMM saw 21 cars (17 with Ukrainian and four with Russian Federation licence plates) and nine pedestrians (six men and three women, aged 45-65) exit Ukraine, seven cars (six with Ukrainian and one with Russian Federation licence plates) and 12 pedestrians (11 women and one man, aged 45-65) enter Ukraine.

At the border crossing point near Verkhnoharasymivka (57km south-east of Luhansk), during about 40 minutes, the SMM saw five pedestrians (three women and two men, aged 35-65) exit Ukraine and two pedestrians (men, both aged about 45) enter Ukraine.

The SMM monitoredgatherings, as previously announced, in commemoration of the Day of Dignity and Freedom in Kyiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Chernivtsi. In Kyiv, the SMM observed that on this occasion an event marking Paratroopers Day was organized on Mykhailivska Square by the Government. The Mission saw about 300 people (men and women of different ages), including government officials, and about 100 paratroopers at the event. At least 50 National Guard and 20 police officers were present. Later in the day, the SMM saw about 250-300 people (20-50 years old, mainly men) gathered on Independence Square; some of them were carrying Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and red-and-black flags and flags with the word “New Fire”, along with Ukrainian national flags. About 250 police officers were present nearby. The SMM saw shoving between some of the participants and police officers in a short period of time but did not observe any further incidents.

In Kherson, the SMM observed about 400-500 people (men and women, aged 20-60, and children), including about 20 people in military-type clothing, gathered at Freedom Square. About six to ten police officers were present. The SMM also observed similar gatherings of about 400 people in Mykolaiv (58km north-west of Kherson) and Chernivtsi. All these events ended peacefully.

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

*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 21 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. 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.
  • 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 government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) 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.

Delay:

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers did not allow the SMM to access a compound near Volnovakha, saying that nobody was allowed to enter the compound without permission from their superiors. The SMM informed the JCCC and after 21 minutes, following the intervention of the JCCC, the Mission was allowed to enter the compound.

Conditional access:

  • On two occasions, armed men stopped the SMM at a checkpoint on road H15 east of “DPR”-controlled Kreminets (16km south-west of Donetsk) and allowed the SMM to proceed only after seeing inside its trailer. The SMM informed the JCCC on both occasions.

[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. Nine SMM cameras are in a testing phase, to last until 30 November 2017.

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