Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 26 November 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions between the evenings of 24 and 25 November compared with the previous reporting period. In both regions the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations between the evenings of 25 and 26 November compared with the previous 24 hours. The SMM heard from soldiers and residents that Ukrainian Armed Forces had moved into the village of Travneve on 21-22 November. Some residents of Travneve told the SMM that they had been without electricity since 16 November. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Petrivske disengagement area. It followed up on reports of a civilian casualty in Popasna and observed damage caused by shelling in Dokuchaievsk and Holmivskyi. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including at a Ukrainian Armed Forces weapons holding area.* The Mission saw weapons in violation of withdrawal lines near Volnovakha. The SMM visited seven border areas outside of government control.The SMM monitored a gathering in front of the regional prosecutor’s officein Odessa.

In Donetsk region, between the evenings of 24 and 25 November, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations[1], including about 400 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 60 explosions). Between the evenings of 25 and 26 November, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including about 280 explosions, compared with the previous 24 hours.

While in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) on the night of 24-25 November the SMM heard: 83 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds (41 assessed as artillery and eight as mortar rounds, the rest undetermined) 3-6km south-east and south, 4-7km north-west, 4-6km north-east and 4-6km east; 57 explosions assessed as impacts 6-8km south and south-east, 8-10km south-west; 25 undetermined explosions 2-5km south and south-east, 4-6km south-west and 4-7km east; and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire – including periods of uncountable overlapping bursts of fire – 2-4km south-east.

While in Svitlodarsk on the night of 25-26 November the SMM heard 59 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms-fire 2-7km south-east and 6-9km south-west, 15 explosions assessed as outgoing artillery rounds 5-7km north-west and 21 explosions assessed as impacts 7-10km west-south-west.

On the night of 24-25 November the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north-west of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, four undetermined explosions, one projectile in flight from west to east and 24 from east to west, all 0.5-1.5km south. On the afternoon of 25 November the camera recorded six undetermined explosions and one projectile in flight from east to west, all 0.5-1.5km south. From the late afternoon of 25 November and overnight from 25-26 November the camera recorded 43 undetermined explosions, 124 projectiles in flight from east to west, nine from west to east and one from north to south, 0.5-1.5km south.

During the daytime on 26 November the camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station recorded, in sequence, 19 undetermined explosions, two projectiles in flight from east to west, followed by a total of 13 undetermined explosions, 13 projectiles in flight from east to west and three from west to east, all 0.5-1.5km south.

On 25 November, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about four hours, the SMM heard 142 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms-fire – and periods of overlapping uncountable bursts – 1-6km west and north, 2-3km north-west, 3-5km north-east, 3-5km south-west and 1-6km south-west.

On 25 November, positioned on the south-western edge of government-controlled Avdiivka for about four hours, the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 4-6km south and south-west. Positioned at the same location on 26 November for about four hours, the SMM heard 23 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 3-6km south-east.

While in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city on 25 November the SMM heard 15 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 5-8km west.

Positioned 2km south-south-east of “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol) on 25 November the SMM heard four explosions assessed as outgoing mortar rounds (120mm) 1km north-west, 42 shots of automatic-grenade-launcher fire 1-2km west and 0.5-1.5km north-west and small-arms-fire 1-2km west and north-west.

On 25 November the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded, in sequence, one explosion assessed as an impact, one undetermined explosion and 42 projectiles in flight from east to west, followed by a total of four undetermined explosions, 62 projectiles from east to west and three from west to east, all 5-8km north. On 26 November the camera recorded, in sequence, two projectiles in flight from east to west, one undetermined explosion, followed by a total of eight projectiles in flight from east to west, five from west to east and two undetermined explosions, all 5-8km north.

While in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) on the night of 25-26 November the SMM heard 25 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-6km west and south-west.

While in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city on the night of 25-26 November the SMM heard ten explosions assessed as outgoing and ten subsequent impacts, nine undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire, all at an unknown distance north-west.

On 26 November the SMM camera in Avdiivka recorded 24 undetermined explosions, all 4-6km east-south-east.

Positioned about 1km north-east of government-controlled Krasnohorivka (24km north of Donetsk) the SMM heard 19 explosions assessed as outgoing mortar rounds (82mm) 4-5km south-east.

In Luhansk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations between the evenings of 24 and 25 November, including 17 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (two explosions). It recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including one explosion, between the evenings of 25 and 26 November, compared with the previous 24 hours.

While in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk) on the night of 24-25 November the SMM heard 16 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire 5-10km south-east and 10km east.

The SMM followed up on allegations of the Ukrainian Armed Forces having moved into the village of Travneve (51km north-east of Donetsk). In nearby government-controlled Novoluhanske (53km north-east of Donetsk) a woman in her sixties told the SMM that between 21 and 22 November, members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Aidar battalion and the 54th brigade had entered Travneve. She also said that on the evening of 14 November the regular bus service bringing workers back to Travneve from the pig farm in Novoluhanske could not enter Travneve as the Ukrainian Armed Forces commander of the checkpoint near Dolomitne (53km north-east of Donetsk) did not let them pass. As a result, she said, these workers had to stay in Novoluhanske. In the days after, according to her, some workers returned to Travneve through the Maiorsk entry-exit checkpoint, although the majority remain in Novoluhanske. The woman said the electricity supply to Travneve had been cut since 14 November and that the (mostly elderly) residents of Travneve have been unable to leave the village to buy groceries in nearby “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk). She told the SMM that the Travneve has no shop.

At a checkpoint adjacent to the pig farm near Dolomitne a soldier, who identified himself as part of the Aidar battalion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told the SMM that his unit had moved into Travneve on 22 November and now controls it. A few minutes later, the commander, who identified himself as the head of the first assault unit, arrived and referred all queries to his superiors.

Aerial imagery of the area taken on 13 November revealed a forward observation trench north of the village with the main trench system and revetted vehicle positions a further 1200m to the north.

In addition, the SMM spoke separately by telephone with four residents from Travneve (three women and a man) and a resident from Novoluhanske (a woman). They told the SMM that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had been present in Travneve since the night of 21-22 November. Four of the residents told the SMM that there has been no electricity in the village since 16 November, which had also affected their water supply. A resident from Travneve, also a member of the Novoluhanske village council, told the SMM that there has been no electricity in Hladosove since 26 November and that on 27 November, the road between Travneve, Hladosove and Holmivskyi was re-opened to pedestrians (after having been closed since 22 November). 

The SMM followed up on reports that an eight-year-old girl was injured by shelling in government-controlled Popasna on 17 November. At 51 Vodoprovidna Street four of the girl’s relatives (a man and a woman, both in their thirties and the girl’s grandparents, both in their sixties) told the SMM that the girl had bruising on her foot and arm as a result of the shelling and also that she now fears being in the dark. The SMM observed a crater in the yard about 10-12m west of the house that the girl’s relatives said was caused by shelling on 17 November. It observed shrapnel damage to the roof and walls and broken windows on all sides of the house, assessed as caused by the blast wave and shrapnel. Windows on the west-facing side of the house had been removed, some window frames had been damaged and other windows had been covered with plastic film. The SMM saw that the roof of the house, which it had observed as destroyed on 18 November, had been partially repaired. It also saw that a shed 10m south-west of the house had been completely destroyed.

The SMM followed up on allegations from Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) of damage caused by shelling in residential areas of “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (30km south-west of Donetsk). At a house on 37 Lenina Street the SMM saw a hole of approximately 50cm diameter in the side of a west-south-west-facing wooden roof. The SMM also observed a number of broken wooden planks and roof panels. The occupants of the house, a man and woman in their sixties, said that they had heard two explosions in the area between 09:50-09:55 on 26 November and said that no one had been injured.

At 10a Tsentralna Street, the SMM observed a fresh 3-4cm hole in a south-west-facing fence. In the yard of the house the SMM saw fresh shrapnel damage to a tree. The SMM spoke separately to three teenage boys on Tsentralna Street who said that they had heard something impacting in the yard of the house at about 13:00 on 24 November. They also said that no one lived in the house.

The SMM visited “DPR”-controlled Yasne (30km south-west of Donetsk) following up on allegations of shelling given to the SMM by the Russian Federation Armed Forces of the JCCC. At the addresses specified (8, 10 and 16 Shchorsa Street) the SMM observed no signs of shelling and two residents of the street – independent of one another – told the SMM that the street had not been shelled since 2015.

In Holmivskyi the SMM, accompanied by a Russian Federation Armed Forces officer of the JCCC, observed damage caused by shelling at 54 Radianskoi Armii Street. The SMM observed an 80cm diameter impact site on the west-facing wall of a house and that parts of the west- and east-facing parts of the roof – said by the homeowners to have been damaged in shelling – had been repaired. In the yard of the house the SMM saw four craters and shrapnel damage to a fence and shed. Based on marks on the asphalt, the SMM assessed that two of the craters had been caused by rounds fired from a north-westerly direction. The homeowners, a couple in their fifties, told the SMM that their house had been shelled on 15 November. In the yard of the house next door (58 Radianskoi Armii Street) the SMM saw shrapnel damage to the east-facing wall. The SMM assessed that the damage had been caused by the impact at 54 Radianskoi Armii Street.

On 24 November the SMM saw both Ukrainian Armed Forces and “DPR”positions close to the Donetsk Filtration Station. The SMM saw Ukrainian Armed Forces about 170m and “DPR” positions about 300-500m from the station, as previously observed (see SMM Daily Report, 25 November 2017).

The SMM continued monitoring the situation in Luhansk city (see SMM Daily Report, 25 November 2017). The SMM noted that no armoured vehicles or armed persons were observed in the area of a hotel at 48 Radianska Street and that a sports facility to the rear of the hotel, that had been housing armed persons, had re-opened for public use. Mobile patrols near the former Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and different former administration buildings were no longer there. The SMM observed also that the static position outside the former MIA building was no longer there.

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 23 November the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded one tracer round in flight from west to east and one undetermined explosion (both assessed as inside the disengagement area).

In the early hours of 25 November, while on the eastern edge of Stanytsia Luhanska the SMM heard one undetermined explosion 2-3km south-west (assessed as outside the disengagement area). On 26 November, positioned in Stanytsia Luhanska the SMM heard one shot 1km east (assessed as outside the disengagement area) and one undetermined explosion 2km east (assessed as outside the disengagement area).

Positioned on the southern edge of “LPR”-controlled Zolote 5-Mykhailivka (60km north-west of Luhansk) on 26 November the SMM heard two shots of small-arms fire 1km north-west (but was unable to assess whether it was in 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.

In violation of the respective withdrawal lines in government-controlled areas, the SMM saw two stationary self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) near Volnovakha (53km south of Donetsk).

Beyond withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites in government-controlled areas, the SMM saw two stationary tanks (T-64) near Volnovakha.

The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage did 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. The SMM observed 12 towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint B, 152mm), four multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) (BM-21, Grad 122mm), 13 tanks (T-72), one mortar (M-120 Molot 120mm) and one surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa) at such holding areas. It also noted that 25 towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm) and one surface-to-air missile system (9K33, Osa) continued to be missing from weapons holding areas. The SMM observed that six weapons holding areas continued to be abandoned.

The SMM revisited a Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage site and observed that five mortars (Molot, 120mm) were missing for the first time and noted that 29 tanks (20 T-72 and nine T-80) continued to be missing.

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[2] in the security zone. In government-controlled areas the SMM saw an armoured reconnaissance vehicle (one BRDM 2), an armoured personnel carrier (BTR-80), and an armoured vehicle (Cougar) near government-controlled Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol) on 25 November.

In non-government-controlled areas the SMM observed an armoured recovery vehicle (BREM-type) on a T-72 chassis transported on a flatbed trailer heading south near Starobesheve (32km south-east of Donetsk) on 25 November.

Also in non-government-controlled areas the SMM observed fresh tracks consistent with self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) chassis in multiple locations: on roads between Zaichenko (26km north-east of Mariupol) and Pikuzy (formerly Kominternove, 23km north-east of Mariupol), between Sosnivske (35km north-east of Mariupol) and Khreshchatytske (formerly Krasnoarmiiske, 33km north-east of Mariupol) and between Verkhnoshyrokivske (formerly Oktiabr, 29km north-east of Mariupol) and Kachkarske (35km north-east of Mariupol).

On 25 November the SMM observed a large number of persons in military-type clothing (25-30 persons), some of whom were armed with assault rifles (AK-47 variant), arrive in Pikuzy by bus. Some tried to hide their faces from the SMM.

Positioned on both sides of the contact line, the SMM facilitated adherence to the ceasefire to enable the transfer of the remains of three Ukrainian Armed Force soldiers from non-government-controlled to government-controlled areas over Shchastia bridge (20km north of Luhansk) on 25 November.

The SMM visited seven border areas outside of government-control. At the Uspenka border crossing point (73km south-east of Donetsk) for about an hour on 25 November, the SMM counted 29 cars (with the following licence plates: eight Ukrainian, eight Russian Federation, two Lithuanian; 11 “DPR” plates) leaving Ukraine; five vans (four with Ukrainian licence plates, one with “DPR” plates), 17 trucks (with the following licence plates: 15 Ukrainian, one Georgian; one with “DPR” plates) and a bus (with Ukrainian number plates) carrying around 30 passengers. About 15 pedestrians exited Ukraine. The SMM saw 24 cars (with the following licence plates: 12 Ukrainian, six Russian Federation, one Georgian, one Lithuanian; four with “DPR” plates), six vans (with the following licence plates: three Ukrainian, one Russian Federation; two with “DPR” plates), one truck with Ukrainian number plates, three tanker trucks (one with Ukrainian licence plates; two with “DPR” plates) and two buses (one with Ukrainian and one with Russian Federation licence plates) carrying a total of about 70 passengers.

At the border crossing point near Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk) for about 20 minutes on 25 November, the SMM observed seven pedestrians leaving Ukraine.

At the border crossing point in Dovzhanske (84km south-east of Luhansk) for about 35 minutes on 25 November, the SMM saw seven vehicles (two with Ukrainian and five with Russian Federation licence plates), one bus (with Ukrainian licence plates, carrying about 35 passengers), three covered cargo trucks (two with Ukrainian licence plates; and one with “LPR” plates) and two male pedestrians (aged about 30) enter Ukraine. The SMM also saw five vehicles (three with Ukrainian and two with Russian Federation licence plates) and six pedestrians (five men, aged about 30 and a woman aged about 50) exit Ukraine.

At the border crossing point in Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk) for about 75 minutes on 25 November, the SMM saw 118 pedestrians (53 women, 65 men, aged 30-50 years old), 17 cars (with the following licence plates: nine Ukrainian, six Russian; and two with “LPR” plates), one bus (with Ukrainian licence plates, carrying about 80 passengers) and three covered trucks (one with Ukrainian, one with Russian and one with Belarussian licence plates) exit Ukraine. The SMM observed 72 pedestrians (45 women, 27 men, aged 30-40 years old), 12 cars (eight with Ukrainian and four with Russian licence plates), two covered trucks (with Ukrainian licence plates,) and one bus (with Ukrainian licence plates, with around 50 passengers) enter Ukraine.

At the Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk) border crossing point for about an hour on 26 November, the SMM saw 22 pedestrians, 20 cars (with the following licence plates: 15 Ukrainian, three Russian Federation, one Finnish; and one with “LPR” plates), one bus (with Ukrainian licence plates, carrying about 60 passengers) and one covered truck (with Ukrainian licence plates) exiting Ukraine. The SMM also observed 14 pedestrians (11 females, three males, including three children), four cars (three with Ukrainian licence plates, one with Russian Federation licence plates), one covered truck (with Ukrainian licence plates) and one bus (with Ukrainian licence plates, carrying about 70 passengers) entering Ukraine.

At the Verkhnoharasymivka (57km south-east of Luhansk) border crossing point for about ten minutes on 26 November, the SMM saw two people (a man and a woman) leaving Ukraine and six people (two women and four men) entering Ukraine.

On 26 November the SMM visited the Novoazovsk (102km south-east of Donetsk) border crossing point, and during 30 minutes of observation, noted two cars and one covered truck (licence plates not observed) exiting Ukraine.

On 26 November, the SMM monitored a gathering in Odessa of about 60 people (mostly men, mixed ages) in front of the regional prosecutor’s office on Pushkinska Street. The SMM saw ten police officers on the opposite side of the street. One of the participants told the SMM that they were protesting against the arrest of the leader of the “Street Front” group and the former leader of Right Sector in Odessa. The two have been in pre-trial detention since 23 and 24 November, respectively, arrested in relation to their participation in the 18 November city garden protest in Odessa. (See SMM Daily Report, 20 November 2017.) He also told the SMM that they planned to block the prosecutor from entering his office on 27 November. The SMM saw some of the participants sitting in front of the door of the prosecutor’s office. During the SMM’s presence, no incidents were observed.

The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, 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 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:

  • On 25 November Ukrainian Armed Forces denied the SMM access to a heavy weapons holding area. The SMM informed the JCCC.

Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:

  • On 25 and 26 November 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. 
  • On 25 November 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.
  • On 25 and 26 November 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.
  • On 25 and 26 November 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.

[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.