Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 8 December 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. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including at a checkpoint near Verkhnoshyrokivske.* The SMM saw damage to civilian properties from shelling near the Chervonyi Yar area of Luhansk city’s Zhovtnevyi district. It facilitated and monitored repairs and maintenance of essential infrastructure near Berezove, Vesela Hora and Artema. The SMM visited two border areas outside of government control.

In Donetsk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations,[1] including about 560 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 200 explosions).

On the evening and night of 7-8 December, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, a projectile in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, a projectile from north-east to south-west, six projectiles from east to west and a projectile from north-west to south-east, followed by a total of 27 undetermined explosions, an airburst and 109 projectiles (61 from east to west and 48 from west to east), all 0.5-1.5km south. In the late afternoon of 8 December, the same camera recorded 12 undetermined explosions and 37 projectiles in flight from east to west, all 0.5-1.5km south.

During the day on 8 December, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for two hours, the SMM heard 15 undetermined explosions and about 90 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 1-8km at directions ranging from south-west to north. The same day, positioned on the south-western edge of Yasynuvata for about four hours, the SMM heard about 160 undetermined explosions and about 330 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 1-7km at directions ranging from south-west to north, as well as about ten undetermined explosions 8-10km north-north-west.

On the evening of 7 December, the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded a projectile in flight from north to south, followed by nine projectiles from south to north, all 3-5km east-south-east. The following day, positioned on the south-western edge of Avdiivka for about five hours, the SMM heard about 40 undetermined explosions and about 20 bursts of small-arms fire, all 2-4km at directions ranging from east to south. Positioned at the same location, the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions and a total of 30 minutes of uncountable overlapping bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 5-7km west and assessed as live-fire training inside the security zone, in violation of the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group of 3 March 2016 that prohibits the conduct of live-fire training (exercises) in the security zone.

On the morning of 8 December, positioned in “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (20km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard 20 undetermined explosions 6-8km north-west, and small-arms fire 2-3km west-north-west. In the afternoon, positioned at the central railway station in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city (6km north-west of city centre), the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 5-7km north-north-east; and five undetermined explosions and about ten bursts and shots of small-arms fire, all 2-6km west-north-west.

On the evening of 7 December, while in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 14 explosions – four assessed as outgoing rounds of recoilless-gun (SPG-9, 73mm) and infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-1) cannon (73mm) fire, five as impacts of rocket-propelled grenades (RPG-7) and the remainder undetermined – and about 140 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 4-6km at directions ranging from south-west to north-west. The following day, positioned on the western edge of Horlivka, the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions 2-4km south-west.

During the day on 8 December, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard about 20 undetermined explosions 3-5km south-east and about 70 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun fire, all 3-5km south-west. The same day, positioned 2.3km north-west of “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard about 90 undetermined explosions and about ten bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire, all 7-20km north-west and west-north-west; and about ten shots of small-arms fire 2-3km west.

On the morning of 8 December, positioned 1km north-north-west of government-controlled Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard 22 undetermined explosions at least 5km west, and ten undetermined explosions at least 5km north-west. In the afternoon, positioned 2km south of “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard four undetermined explosions at unknown distances west-north-west and about 50 bursts and shots of small-arms fire 0.5-1km west. It also heard about 70 shots and bursts of small-arms fire 0.5-1km east, assessed as live-fire training inside the security zone, in violation of the decision of the Trilateral Contact Group 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, however, fewer explosions (about 70), compared with the previous reporting period (about 120 explosions).

During the day on 8 December, while in “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city centre, the SMM heard three explosions assessed as impacts of artillery or mortar rounds 10-15km north-west.

The same day, positioned in “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), the SMM heard seven explosions assessed as mortar (120mm) rounds 5-6km west and eight explosions assessed as mortar (120mm) rounds 5-7km north.

Positioned 2.5km south-west of “LPR”-controlled Obozne (18km north of Luhansk), the SMM heard six explosions assessed as outgoing rounds 10-15km north-north-west and their subsequent impacts 10-15km north-north-east.

Positioned in the Chervonyi Yar area of “LPR”-controlled Luhansk city’s Zhovtnevyi district (6km north-east of Luhansk city centre), the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 10km north-west.

Positioned on the southern edge of “LPR”-controlled Kalynove-Borshchuvate (61km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 8-12km south, and about 60 bursts and shots of automatic-grenade-launcher and heavy-machine-gun fire 3-6km west-north-west.

On 6 December, the SMM saw damage to civilian properties from shelling in “LPR”-controlled Zelena Roshcha, a summer house neighbourhood, 2km north of the Chervonyi Yar area. On Samoilovoi Street, the SMM saw a destroyed house, with a fire smouldering and smoke emanating from it. The Mission observed that the house had no roof, interior structure or most of the exterior walls, and that its east-facing exterior wall and a part of the external south-facing wall were standing but severely damaged and burnt. Scorched bricks and other scattered debris were also observed around the house. The SMM saw a fresh crater about 100m east of the house, and an unexploded 82mm mortar round 50-60m south-west of the house. The Mission assessed the damage as having caused by an 82mm mortar round but was unable to determine the direction of fire. A community service guard (a man, aged 35) told the SMM that from a security guard house, located 250m east of the destroyed house, he had heard loud explosions between 08:15 and 08:25 on the morning of 6 December.

The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, 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 6 December, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded four flares in flight from east to west 2-3km north-north-west, assessed as outside the disengagement area. During the day on 8 December, positioned in Petrivske, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 6-10km north and eight undetermined explosions 6-10km west.

On the evening of 7 December, the SMM camera near the Prince Ihor monument south-east of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (15km north-east of Luhansk) recorded four undetermined explosions 1.4km north-west, assessed as inside the disengagement area. The same evening, the SMM camera in Stanytsia Luhanska recorded an undetermined explosion 500m south-south-west, four explosions (two assessed as impacts of mortar rounds and the remainder undetermined) 1.5km south-south-east and three explosions (two assessed as impacts of mortar rounds and one undetermined) 1.6km south, all assessed as inside the disengagement area.

On the evening of 7 December, while on the eastern edge of government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska, the SMM heard 11 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds of undetermined weapons, about 200 bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun fire and small-arms fire, all 2-3km south-west (unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area); three undetermined explosions 3-5km south-east (assessed as outside the disengagement area); and 27 shots of heavy-machine-gun fire 3km south-west (unable to assess whether inside or outside the disengagement area). The following day, positioned at the government checkpoint north of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 3-4km west (assessed as outside the disengagement area). Positioned about 300m north of the bridge, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 7-10km south-west (assessed as outside the disengagement area).

On 8 December, positioned near the Zolote disengagement area, the SMM observed a calm situation.

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 non-government-controlled areas, the SMM saw an armoured personnel carrier (APC) (BTR-80) near Donetsk city centre and an IFV (BMP-2) near Vedenske (33km north-east of Mariupol). The SMM also saw three APCs (two BMP-1 and one BMP-2) near Roza (36km north-east of Mariupol) (in a zone within which deployment of heavy armaments and military equipment is further proscribed according to Point 5 of the Memorandum of 19 September 2014).

In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw a reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-variant)  near Taramchuk (29km south-west of Donetsk), four APCs (BTR-80) moving north and an IFV (BTR-4) near government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) and an IFV (BTR-3) near Voitove (33km north-west of Luhansk). On 6 December, an SMM mid-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted a probable APC (BTR-variant) near Pyshchevyk. On 7 December, an SMM mid-range UAV spotted a reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) stationary in the yard of a hospital building in Svitlodarsk and another reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) stationary in a nearby residential area.

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs and maintenance work, co-ordinated by the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), to a water pipeline between government-controlled Berezove (31km south-west of Donetsk) and “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk), to the power substation near Vesela Hora and to the water pumping station near government-controlled Artema (26km north of Luhansk).

At the government checkpoint north of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, a Ukrainian Armed Forces officer and a State Border Guard Service commander separately told the SMM that they had received information verbally from their respective superiors that repairs to the wooden ramps of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge would be conducted on 9 and 10 December. (See SMM Daily Report 8 December 2017.) “LPR” members at a checkpoint south of the bridge refused to speak with the SMM regarding the planned repairs of the bridge. Later in the day, the head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration informed the SMM that the administration would open an entry-exit checkpoint near Zolote on 9 December 2017.

The SMM visited two border areas outside of government control. At the border crossing point near Novoazovsk (102km south-east of Donetsk), during 35 minutes, the SMM saw nine cars (including two with “DPR” plates) exiting Ukraine, and five cars (including one with “DPR” plates) entering Ukraine.

At the border crossing point near Dovzhanske (84km south-east of Luhansk), during an hour, the SMM observed 17 cars, four covered cargo trucks, a bus (carrying about 20 passengers) and 11 pedestrians (seven men and four women) exiting Ukraine, and 12 cars, seven covered cargo trucks and two buses (each carrying about 30 passengers) entering Ukraine.           

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, 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 2 December 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. 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 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.

Conditional:

  • At a checkpoint near “DPR”-controlled Verkhnoshyrokivske (formerly Oktiabr, 29km north-east of Mariupol), an armed person delayed the SMM’s passage for 34 minutes. The person asked about the destination of the SMM patrol and the number of its patrol members; the Mission was allowed to proceed only after providing the latter information. The SMM informed the JCCC.

[1]For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table. During this reporting period the SMM camera at the Oktiabr mine (Donetsk) remained non-operational. Four SMM cameras continue to be tested until the end of December 2017.

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