Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 29 November 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions compared with the previous reporting period.The Mission observed damage to civilian properties from shelling in Yasne.The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Petrivske disengagement area. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including near Manuilivka and at a heavy weapons holding area and a permanent storage site in non-government-controlled areas.* The Mission observed a weapon in violation of withdrawal lines near Bile and military-type vehicles in column formations near Buhaivka. The SMM attempted to reach Travneve but was unable to do so due to the possible presence of mines or unexploded ordnance on the road leading to the village. It facilitated and monitored repairs and maintenance of essential infrastructure in Shchastia, and near Krasnyi Lyman, Vesela Hora and Novozvanivka. The SMM visited three border areas not under government control.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations,[1] including about 110 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 360 explosions).

On the evening and night of 28-29 November, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, a projectile in flight from west to east, an undetermined explosion, a tracer round in flight from east to west, and nine undetermined explosions, all 0.5-1.5km south. On the afternoon of 29 November, the camera recorded, in sequence, three undetermined explosions, two projectiles from west to east, two undetermined explosions, two projectiles from west to east, an undetermined explosion, and two projectiles from north to south, followed by totals of 14 undetermined explosions and 58 projectiles (57 from east to west, one from west to east), all 0.5-1.5km south.

During the day on 29 November, positioned on the south-western edge of government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) for over five hours, the SMM heard 30 undetermined explosions, about 60 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, and three bursts of small-arms fire, all 1-7km at directions ranging from east to south-east. In the afternoon, the SMM camera in Avdiivka recorded six projectiles in flight from north to south followed by an undetermined explosion, all 4-6km south-east.

On the evening of 28 November, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions and over 120 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-7km at directions ranging from east to south.

During the day on 29 November, while at the same location, the SMM heard five undetermined explosions, about 85 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, and two minutes of uncountable overlapping bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-8km east and south-east. The Mission also heard five undetermined explosions 5-6km south-west.

Positioned at the entry-exit checkpoint near government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard four undetermined explosions 2-4km north-north-east.

On the evening and night of 28-29 November, the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded, in sequence, 15 projectiles in flight from east to west, two undetermined explosions, a tracer round in flight from east to west, eight projectiles from west to east, 12 projectiles from east to west, six projectiles from west to east, and an undetermined explosion, followed by totals of 16 undetermined explosions, 107 projectiles (75 from east to west, 32 from west to east), three tracer rounds from west to east, and two illumination flares in vertical flight, all 5-8km north.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations – including, however, a similar number of explosions (21) – compared with the previous reporting period (20 explosions).

On the evening of 28 November, while on the northern edge of government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 21 undetermined explosions 10-12km south-east.

On the afternoon of 29 November, positioned 1km east of “LPR”-controlled Kalynove-Borshchuvate (61km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard five shots of infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-2) cannon (30mm) 2-3km west.

The SMM followed up on a report of damage to civilian properties from shelling, received from Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC).[2] At 46 Shchorsa Street in “DPR”-controlled Yasne (30km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM saw a garage with a missing roof and a completely charred interior. The Mission also saw shrapnel and fire damage on a car in a garage elsewhere on the street, which the car’s owner said had been parked in the damaged garage when it was hit. The SMM assessed that the damage to the garage and car was caused by a 73mm round from an IFV cannon and a 23mm round from an anti-aircraft gun, both of which had been fired from directions ranging from south-west to north-west. The garage’s owner (man in his forties) told the SMM that shelling had occurred in the early evening of 24 November.

At 31A Shchorsa Street, the SMM saw a hole (10x15cm) in a reinforced concrete slab above a north-east-facing entrance to an apartment building, as well as two broken windows above the slab. Metal sheeting with shrapnel damage lay on the ground nearby. In a flower bed about 10-15m south-east of the entrance, the SMM saw a crater near a north-facing wall with five broken windows, shrapnel damage, and traces of scorching. The SMM assessed that the hole and crater were caused by 73mm rounds from IFV cannons fired from a north-westerly direction. Four residents of the building (women in their sixties) told the SMM that the impacts had occurred in the early evening of 24 November.

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 27 November, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded three projectiles in flight from south-east to north-west 1-3km south-west (assessed as inside the disengagement area).

During the day on 29 November, positioned near all three 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 non-government-controlled areas the SMM saw a self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) on a flatbed truck heading west about 1km south-west of Bile (22km west of Luhansk).

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. In non-government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM saw six self-propelled howitzers (2S1) and noted as missing 13 mortars (12 PM-38, 120mm, and one 2B11 Sani, 120mm). The Mission was denied access to another heavy weapons holding area in non-government-controlled areas.*

The SMM revisited a permanent storage site beyond respective withdrawal lines in a non-government-controlled area of Donetsk region and noted that eight tanks (three T-64 and five T-72) were still missing. The Mission was denied access to another permanent storage site in a non-government-controlled area of Donetsk region.*

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[3]in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw two stationary APCs (BTR-80) near Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) and a stationary IFV (BMP-1) near Novoluhanske (53km north-east of Donetsk).

In areas outside of government control, the SMM saw a stationary IFV (BMP-2) in Smile (31km north-west of Luhansk), about 20m from a residential house.

Aerial imagery revealed that, on 28 November, large numbers of military-type vehicles (types and exact numbers undetermined, due to partial cloud cover) were arranged in column formations 500-600m north-north-west of a parking area about 2km south-east of “LPR”-controlled Buhaivka (37km south-west of Luhansk) where weapons had previously been observed. (See SMM Daily Report 21 November 2017.)

In “DPR”-controlled Dmytrivka (85km east of Donetsk), the SMM saw four armed persons (two of whom were wearing camouflage masks over their faces) with military-style clothing bearing the image of a black bat and a green Kamaz truck parked behind them with the “Chechen 777” written in Cyrillic on one of the doors.

The SMM followed up again on reports of the Ukrainian Armed Forces having moved into Travneve (51km north-east of Donetsk). (See SMM Daily Report 27 November 2017.) At the northern edge of “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk), the Mission could not proceed to Travneve due to the possible presence of mines or unexploded ordnance (UXO) on the road. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC in Travneve told the SMM that no Ukrainian Armed Forces de-miners were present, and that therefore no demining would take place.* Civilians travelling by foot or bicycle on the road between Travneve and Holmivskyi told the Mission that there were mines, including anti-tank mines, on the road. Three residents of Travneve (two women in their late twenties and a man in his forties) told the SMM that the village had lacked electricity since 16 November and water since 21 November. In Novoluhanske, a woman (aged 68) told the SMM that she could not get to her home in Travneve. Aerial imagery revealed the presence on 28 November of tracks assessed as those of both wheeled and tracked vehicles in and around the village, including some coming from Ukrainian Armed Forces positions north of the village.

The SMM again observed the poor condition of the wooden ramps at the broken section of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge. During 45 minutes on the morning of 29 November, the SMM observed about 300 people (men and women, 70 per cent aged over 65) crossing the ramps, which were slippery due to wintry conditions. Three people fell, and young children were crying. The SMM noted that wooden panels had recently been inserted into the northern-most of the two ramps to strengthen it. (Local porters had previously told the Mission that they had conducted the minor repairs.)

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs and maintenance work, co‑ordinated by the JCCC, to the thermal power plant in Shchastia, water wells near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk), a power substation near “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), and high-voltage lines between government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) and government-controlled Novozvanivka (70km west of Luhansk).

The SMM visited three border areas not under government control. During 30 minutes at a border crossing point near Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM saw 12 cars (three with Ukrainian and five with Russian Federation licence plates, and four with “DPR” plates) and 19 trucks with covered cargo areas (16 with Ukrainian licence plates and three with “DPR” plates) and a bus (with Ukrainian licence plates) in queues to exit Ukraine and ten cars (six with Ukrainian and three with Russian Federation licence plates, and one with Georgian plates), one truck with a covered cargo area (with Ukrainian licence plates), and ten pedestrians (aged 20-60) entering Ukraine.

During 30 minutes at a border crossing point near Ulianivske (61km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM saw three people (aged 40-50) arrive by car (with Russian Federation licence plates) and then exit Ukraine on foot.

During just over an hour at a border crossing point near Voznesenivka (formerly Chervonopartyzansk, 65km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw 22 cars (15 with Ukrainian, five with Russian Federation, one with Georgian, and one with Lithuanian licence plates), two buses (one with Ukrainian and one with Russian Federation licence plates), and one truck with a covered cargo area (with Ukrainian licence plates) in queues to exit Ukraine, and 11 cars (four with Ukrainian, six with Russian Federation, and one with Lithuanian licence plates) and six pedestrians (women aged 30-70) entering Ukraine.

At the Chervona Mohyla railway station near Voznesenivka, the SMM saw about 80 train wagons, whose contents were not visible, being rearranged by railway staff in four different combinations. Two “LPR” members (one armed and one unarmed) were present.

The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, 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, 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:

  • An armed person denied the SMM access to a compound 3km west of “DPR”-controlled Manuilivka (65km east of Donetsk) where the SMM had noted a decrease in the number of tanks present between 18 and 24 November. (See SMM Daily Report 25 November 2017.) The Mission informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM was denied access to a “DPR” permanent storage site as no one was present. The Mission informed the JCCC.
  • At a heavy weapons holding area in a non-government-controlled area of Donetsk region, an armed “DPR” member denied the SMM access. Fifteen minutes later an unarmed person known to the Mission as an “LPR” member arrived and attempted to allow the SMM access, after which the abovementioned “DPR” member again denied the SMM access. The Mission informed the JCCC.

Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:

  • At the northern edge of Holmivskyi, the Mission could not proceed to Travneve due to the possible presence of mines or UXO on the road. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC in Travneve told the SMM that no Ukrainian Armed Forces de-miners were present, and that therefore no demining would take place.
  • 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 travel across the bridge in 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:

  • On 28 November, medical staff at a hospital in Luhansk city told the SMM that they could not provide information on reported civilian casualties to the SMM without prior notice from “LPR” members.  

[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] Addendum: The addresses in Yasne mentioned in SMM Daily Report 27 November 2017 were different from those indicated to the SMM by the Russian Federation side of the JCCC on 25 November 2017.

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