Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 23 November 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. It continued to observe armed men and armoured personnel carriers in Luhansk city centre. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it heard an explosion near the Stanytsia Luhansk disengagement area. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including near Kreminets.* The SMM observed shelling damage in a residential area of Dokuchaievsk. In Luhansk the SMM observed a convoy of 16 cargo trucks marked with “Humanitarian help from the Russian Federation”. It facilitated and monitored repairs and maintenance of essential infrastructure in Betmanove. The SMM observed a calm situation in Kherson region along the administrative boundary line with Crimea. It observed groups of parishioners shout at one another outside a church in Ivano-Frankivsk.

In Donetsk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations[1], including about 80 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 60 explosions).

While in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city on the evening of 22 November, the SMM heard four to eight explosions assessed as outgoing artillery (152mm) rounds at an unknown distance south-west and one undetermined explosion 2-3km north-west.

On the evening of 22-23 November the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, one undetermined explosion, two tracer rounds in flight from east to west, followed by a total of 53 explosions (seven assessed as outgoing, the rest undetermined), 43 projectiles in flight from east to west and one from west to east, all 0.5-1.5km south. On 23 November the camera recorded seven undetermined explosions, followed by three projectiles in flight from east to west and an undetermined explosion, all 0.5-1.5km south.

In the early hours of 23 November the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, 24 projectiles in flight from east to west and one from west to east, all 4-6km east-south-east. On 23 November the camera recorded four projectiles and six tracer rounds in flight from south to north, 4-6km east-south-east.

Positioned about 1km south-east of government-controlled Kleban Byk (48km north-east of Donetsk) for about 90 minutes, the SMM heard uncountable and overlapping shots and bursts of small-arms fire 1km north, assessed as from a known training area 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.

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

Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Sentianivka (formerly Frunze, 44km west of Luhansk) on 23 November the SMM heard – in a 20-minute period – at least 40 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire 5-8km north-west and eight explosions assessed as outgoing rounds 1km north.

The SMM continued to monitor the security situation in Luhansk city (see SMM Daily Report, 23 November 2017). It observed an overall calm situation in the city, with people and vehicles moving normally apart from in specific areas. On Lermontova Street the SMM observed about 30 unidentified armed persons wearing military-style fatigues. They wore different types of camouflage fatigues of visibly poor quality, carried small arms (mostly AK-variants) and wore white armbands. The SMM observed no heavy-machine-guns, no PKM machine-guns or automatic grenade launchers that had been previously observed in recent days. The SMM noted that the armoured vehicle observed on 22 November at the intersection of Lermontova and Radianska Streets was no longer there, but did see two stationary military trucks (with no licence plates and covered cargo bays) and – later, three stationary military trucks (also with no licence plates and covered cargo bays) – at that location.

The SMM observed that all barriers and armoured vehicles seen on Kotsiubynskoho Street on 21 November were no longer present. At a number of intersections leading to Lunacharskoho Street, the SMM saw 16 armed persons (some with their faces covered). At the former Ministry of Internal Affairs building at 3 Kotsiubynskoho Street, the SMM observed 15-20 armed persons with white armbands on their sleeves, and two stationary armoured personnel carriers (APC). The SMM saw a green-coloured unmarked bus and two armed persons wearing white armbands at 2a Kotsiubynskoho Street. At the armed formations (“komendatura”) building at 63 Karla Marksa Street, the SMM observed about five armed persons wearing “komendatura” unit markings patrolling around the building.

The SMM, following up on reports from Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), observed shelling damage in a residential area of “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (30km south-west of Donetsk). The SMM conducted two impact site assessments in the town. The SMM saw fresh shrapnel damage (five holes, each 5-10cm wide) on the west-facing wall of a kindergarten building at 72a Tsentralna Street. The SMM was unable to assess the type of weapon used or the direction of fire. Three staff members (all women in their fifties or sixties) told the SMM that they – and about 50 children, staff and parents – had been on the premises when shelling had started at around 15:50 on 20 November. They told the SMM that no one had been injured.

At 45/8 Komsomolska Street, the SMM observed that all four walls in the living room of apartment 29 had sustained shrapnel damage (multiple fresh holes, 1-2cm in diameter), that the south-west-facing window of the balcony door was broken, and that the shutters had been damaged by shrapnel. The door of the apartment and a wall in a corridor had shrapnel damage (five holes, 1-2cm in diameter). The SMM was unable to assess the type of weapon used or the direction of fire. The owners of the apartment (a woman in her seventies and her son, in his fifties) told the SMM that the shelling had started at about 15:50 on 20 November and that no one had been injured.

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.*

While on the eastern edge of government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska on the night of 22-23 November the SMM heard an undetermined explosion assessed as a round fired from an automatic grenade launcher (AGL) 2-5km south (but was unable to assess whether it was inside or 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.

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[2] in the security zone. In a non-government-controlled area the SMM observed two stationary APCs (BTR-80) on Karla Marksa Street in Luhansk city (see above).

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs and maintenance work, co-ordinated by the JCCC, to the power line in “DPR”-controlled Betmanove (formerly Krasnyi Partyzan, 23km north-east of Donetsk).

On Krasnodonska Street, Luhansk city the SMM observed a convoy of 16 cargo trucks, all marked with “Humanitarian help from the Russian Federation” written in Russian. Most were white in colour but at least one was blue. Four support vehicles (white in colour with two orange stripes on the sides, and marked “Ministry of Emergency Service”, licence plates not seen) and several vehicles (with “LPR” plates) marked “traffic police” made up the convoy. The SMM noted that one dark green-coloured bus (licence plates not seen by the SMM) with tinted windows followed the convoy. The SMM could see only the driver of the bus, who was dressed in camouflage-type clothing. Later, near “LPR”-controlled Prydorozhne (28km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed the same convoy travelling south in the direction of the Izvaryne border crossing point. All vehicles previously observed earlier in Luhansk city – apart from the dark green-coloured bus – were travelling as part of the convoy.

The SMM visited three border areas outside of government-control. At the border crossing point in Sievernyi (50km south-east of Luhansk) for about 15 minutes, the SMM saw three pedestrians (one man and two women) leave Ukraine and two pedestrians (both women) enter.

At the border crossing point in Voznesenivka (formerly Chervonopartyzansk, 65km south-east of Luhansk) for about an hour, the SMM observed 16 cars (with the following licence plates: eight Ukrainian, seven Russian Federation, and one Georgian), one bus (“Sverdlovsk-Gukovo” with Russian Federation licence plates, carrying about 18 passengers) and eight pedestrians enter Ukraine. The SMM observed 17 pedestrians, 28 cars (with the following plates: 15 Ukrainian, nine Russian Federation, three Georgian; and one with “LPR” plates), one bus (“Gukovo-Sverdlovsk”, carrying about 20 passengers, with Russian Federation licence plates), one bus (with Ukrainian licence plates, carrying about 45 people) and one minibus (with Ukrainian licence plates, carrying nine passengers) and three minibuses (licence plates and number of passengers not visible) exit Ukraine.

At the border crossing point in Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk) for about an hour, the SMM saw 22 pedestrians (15 women and seven men), 15 cars (with the following licence plates: eight Ukrainian, three Russian Federation, two Georgian; and two with “LPR” plates), two buses (one with “Luhansk-Belgorod” displayed and with Ukrainian licence plates with about 20 passengers; and one with “Moscow-Luhansk” displayed and with Russian Federation licence plates, carrying about 20 passengers), one covered truck (with Ukrainian licence plates) exit Ukraine. The SMM observed eight pedestrians (five women, three men), five cars (three with Ukrainian licence plates, two with Russian Federation licence plates) and one covered truck (with Ukrainian licence plates) enter Ukraine.

On 22 November the SMM monitored the administrative boundary line between Kherson region and Crimea from the Chonhar crossing point (162km south-east of Kherson) and found the situation to be calm.

On 19 November, the SMM observed groups of parishioners shouting at one another outside a church in Stary Hvizdets (Kolomyia district), Ivano-Frankivsk. The SMM observed parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) attend a mass inside the church. Outside, the SMM observed 40-50 Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) parishioners and priests. Thirty police officers controlled access to the church. When the mass concluded, the UOC-KP congregation (about 70 persons) left and the church was locked by one of the parishioners. The SMM then saw two groups of UOC and UOC-KP parishioners shout angrily at one another, but no further incidents took place.

The SMM continued monitoring in Odessa, Lviv, 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 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:

  • Armed men denied the SMM passage through a checkpoint south-east of “DPR”-controlled Kreminets (16km south-west of Donetsk). 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. 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 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 (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. 

[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, which will last until 30 November 2017.

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