Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 22 November 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM continued to see the presence of at least 100 armed persons as well as of vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers, in Luhansk city centre. The Mission recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region and a similar number in Luhansk region compared with the previous reporting period. The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas; it recorded a ceasefire violation inside the Petrivske disengagement area, outside the reporting period. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including again near Kreminets and in Luhansk city.* The Mission facilitated and monitored repairs of power lines in Betmanove. The SMM continued to monitor the situation of civilians travelling across the contact line. It visited a border area not under government control in Donetsk region. The SMM monitored a gathering in Kyiv.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Luhansk city (see SMM Daily Report 22 November 2017). The SMM observed a calm situation, with pedestrians and vehicles moving normally except in certain areas of the city. The SMM observed that the same area, with a radius of up to 600m from 38 Lunacharskoho Street, remained cordoned off. (See SMM Spot Report 23 November 2017.) Inside this area, the SMM saw at least 100 unidentified armed persons, most of them wearing balaclavas and military-style clothing (with white tape stripes on their arms) and armed with disposable anti-tank weapons, automatic grenade launchers (AGS-17), and small arms. In the same area, the SMM also saw four stationary armoured personnel carriers (APC) (one at each location) in Kotelnykova, Lermontova Street, Kotelnykova Street, and at Polskoho Street. About 20m south of the intersection of Radianska and Lermontova Streets, the SMM observed at least four military-type trucks, without licence plates, one APC, and five unidentified armed persons wearing military-style clothes and white tape stripes on their arms. An armed man, who covered his face when talking to the SMM, said that it was a “police exercise”. The armed men denied the SMM passage south through Lermontova Street.*

The SMM observed that as of 19:00, radio and television signals continued to be  unavailable in the hotels where the SMM is accommodated.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations,[1] including about 60 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 120 explosions).

On the evening of 21 November, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard seven undetermined explosions 2-4km at directions ranging from south-east to south-west.

On the night of 21-22 November, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, four projectiles in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, five projectiles and seven tracer rounds from east to west, followed by totals of 14 tracer rounds in flight (ten from east to west and four from west to east), a projectile in flight from east to west, and ten undetermined explosions, all 0.5-1.5km south.

On 22 November, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard five undetermined explosions 2-3km north-north-west. Positioned at the south-western edge of Yasynuvata for about two hours, the SMM heard 20 undetermined explosions and about 40 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 1-4km at directions ranging from south-west to north-north-west.

On the same day, positioned 1km north-north-west of government-controlled Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol) the SMM heard and saw two airbursts, assessed as mortar (type unknown) rounds 2-3km north-north-east, and heard three undetermined explosions, assessed as mortar (type unknown) rounds at an unknown distance north-north-east. Positioned about 2km south-west of Pyshchevyk, the SMM heard eight undetermined explosions at an unknown distance north-north-east.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded a similar number of ceasefire violations, including a similar number of explosions (ten) as in the previous reporting period.

During the day on 22 November, positioned at the southern edge of “LPR”-controlled Kalynove (60km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard eight shots of infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-2) cannon (30mm) and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 3-5km south-west and west. Positioned on the eastern edge of Kalynove, the SMM heard eight undetermined explosions and a shot of heavy-machine-gun fire, all 5-8km 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.*

In the early morning hours of 20 November, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded a tracer round in flight from east to west 200-500m south-west, assessed as inside the disengagement area.

On 22 November, positioned 3km north of “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (58km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard two undetermined explosions 5-8km west-south-west, assessed as outside the Zolote disengagement area.

During the day on 22 November, positioned near the Stanytsia Luhanska, 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.

Beyond the respective withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, in government-controlled areas, the SMM saw 12 surface-to-air missile systems (9K33 Osa) on railcars at the train station in Rubizhne (84km north-west of Luhansk). The SMM saw six surface-to-air missile systems (9K33 Osa): four near Smolianynove and two near Novookhtyrka (61km and 55km north-west of Luhansk, respectively), all covered with tarpaulins and heading west.  

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[2] in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw three reconnaissance vehicles (BRDM-2), two of which had no turrets, near Opytne (63km north-east of Donetsk) on 21 November. On 22 November, the SMM saw an IFV (BMP variant) stationary between residential houses near Bohdanivka (41km south-west of Donetsk), and three APCs (BTR-80) stationary near Raihorodka (34km north-west of Luhansk).

In non-government-controlled areas, the SMM saw stationary APCs in Luhansk city (see above).

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 power line in “DPR”-controlled Betmanove (formerly Krasnyi Partyzan, 23km north-east of Donetsk).

The SMM continued to monitor the situation of civilians at entry-exit checkpoints (EECP) along the contact line. At 08:30 at the EECP in Pyshchevyk, the SMM saw about 60 cars, about 50 pedestrians and two buses in a queue towards non-government-controlled areas, as well as about 160 cars, about 230 pedestrians, and three minibuses queuing in the opposite direction. At 14:16, the SMM saw about 150 cars, two buses and 25 pedestrians in a queue to travel towards non-government-controlled areas, and about 90 cars, three pedestrians, and three minibuses queuing to travel in the opposite direction.

At 08:40, at a checkpoint near “DPR”-controlled Kreminets (16km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM saw about 230 cars and about 200 pedestrians in a queue to travel towards government-controlled areas, and 12 cars queuing in the opposite direction. At 16:00, the SMM saw about 200 cars and 20 pedestrians waiting to travel into non-government-controlled areas, and 37 cars and 30 pedestrians queuing to travel in the opposite direction.

The SMM visited a border area not under government control. At the border crossing point near Marynivka (78km south-east of Donetsk), during about one hour, the SMM saw 18 cars (12 with Ukrainian and five with Russian Federation licence plates, and one with “DPR” plates) and a curtain-sided heavy goods truck with “DPR” plates exit Ukraine, as well as eight cars (including one with “DPR” plates) enter Ukraine.

The SMM monitored gatherings in Kyiv. During the morning the SMM observed at least 400 people (aged 50-80, almost all men) gathered in front of the Cabinet of Ministers building on Hrushevskoho Street. They held both Ukrainian and trade-union flags, and banners and posters identifying themselves as retired members of the military and police forces protesting what they said were inadequate pensions. The SMM saw about 50 National Guard and about 25-30 police officers present. The protest ended peacefully.

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, 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:

  • Unidentified armed men denied the SMM access through the intersection of Radianska and Lermontova streets in Luhansk city (see above). The SMM informed the JCCC.

    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. An unarmed “LPR” member 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 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.

    Conditional access:

  • On two occasions, unarmed men in military-style clothing at a “DPR” checkpoint on road H15 east of Kreminets allowed the SMM to proceed further only after seeing inside the trailers of the SMM’s vehicles. The SMM informed the JCCC on both occasions. The SMM faced the same impediment the previous day (see SMM Daily Report 22 November 2017).

[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.