Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 15 January 2015
By Michael Bociurkiw, Tetiana Tesliuchenko, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
The SMM continued to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum and the work of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC). The JCCC and “DPR” leadership agreed a special joint inquiry into the incident causing the deaths of civilians on a bus in Volnovakha. A number of ceasefire violations and military movements were observed by the SMM in Donetsk and Luhansk region. The SMM was unable to patrol the Donetsk airport. Shots were fired in the direction of the SMM in Chermalyk.
The SMM monitored the meetings of the headquarters of the JCCC in Donetsk city, where the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ and Russian Federation Armed Forces’ representatives and members of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) were present. The JCCC and “DPR” leadership agreed to an SMM proposal to begin their special joint inquiry into the incident causing the deaths of civilians on a bus in Volnovakha (35km south-west of Donetsk, government-controlled) starting on 16 January (see SMM Spot Report 14 January and SMM Daily Report 14 January). The inquiry team will consist of both Russian Federation and Ukraine Armed Forces’ senior representatives of the JCCC as well as a “DPR” member. The SMM will monitor the process. In parallel, the SMM will continue its observations and establish its own findings regarding the incident.
The JCCC also discussed a joint patrol to Donetsk airport. After all the necessary security arrangements were in place and a regime of silence was declared, the SMM attempted twice (on 14 and 15 January) to reach Donetsk airport to monitor the security situation. The SMM saw substantial damage to civilian houses and infrastructure caused by artillery, in a residential area close to the airport. The SMM observed ongoing fighting at the airport but was unable to travel closer due to the security situation.
The SMM went to Hranitne (57km south of Donetsk, government-controlled), a village that, according to residents, has been subject to near daily shelling for months. When in the village, the SMM observed the funeral of a three-year old child who residents said was killed when a mortar struck a house on 11 January. The SMM were invited to see the house and saw severe damage to the roof.
A number of ceasefire violations and military movements were observed by the SMM in the Donetsk city and region. The SMM saw three unmarked trucks towing three D-30 122mm Howitzers on the southern edge of Donetsk city travelling west past a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint. Two unmarked T-80 battle tanks were seen by the SMM travelling south-east in Makiivka (five kilometres east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled). The SMM heard shelling around the “DPR”-controlled village of Styla (50km south of Donetsk). The SMM observed a convoy of 21 military-style Ural and KAMAZ trucks, also unmarked, heading south on a highway near Starobesheve (45km south of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled). Four of the trucks carried what appeared to be communication equipment, while the remaining trucks were covered.
The SMM visited Chermalyk (72km south of Donetsk, government-controlled) to monitor the repair of the village water pump. The village is located on the western side of the Kalmius river with the eastern side of the river controlled by “DPR.” After meeting repair workers, the SMM moved to a nearby hill, approximately 200 metres from the pump. After two hours on site, three shots were fired by unknown person(s); one hit the workers’ truck; two others struck within five metres of SMM vehicles. The SMM assessed that the shots were fired from an easterly direction. No one was injured. The SMM and repair workers left the area immediately.
In Snizhne (72km east of Donetsk, “DPR”-controlled) residents told the SMM that eight branch offices of a so-called “DPR Bank” were operating in the town – allowing residents to receive payments and salaries from “DPR” structures.
The SMM met with commanders from the Ukraine Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces at the JCCC office in Starobilsk (90km north of Luhansk, government-controlled). The Ukraine Armed Forces commander reported that there had been an upsurge in incidents recently with 123 reports of shelling within their area of responsibility during the past 24 hours. Prior to this, around 40 incidents over a 24 hour period was the average. Both the Ukraine Armed Forces’ and the Russian Federation Army commanders agreed that the JCCC could not be successful in implementing its mandate until a total cessation of hostilities was in place.
On 15 January, the SMM visited Pervomaisk (75km west of Luhansk, “LPR”-controlled) and met civilians who have been living in a basement for nearly six months due to continuous shelling. Up to 35 people are living in the basement of a building that lacks sanitary and cooking facilities. They do not have running water. Residents told the SMM that during eight hours of shelling the previous day, there were about 100 people in the improvised shelter. The SMM saw damage from continuous shelling. Children receive some home education, but are largely confined to the basement, with limited access to fresh air and daylight. Residents complained of not receiving support of any kind from anyone.
The SMM monitored a rally on Constitution square in Kharkiv organized by the Azov volunteer battalion and a group called “the patriots of Ukraine.” About 30 predominantly young men, most from the Azov volunteer battalion, gathered in front of the Russian consulate. Participants held Ukrainian and Azov volunteer battalion flags. They collected donations for the volunteer battalion. At 17:45hrs, they dispersed peacefully. Fifty police officers were present.
On 14 January, the SMM met with the police chief of Marhanets (95km south-west of Dnipropetrovsk). Although he judged the security situation in the area as generally stable, the police chief noted a considerable rise in incidents involving weapons and explosives, probably due to an increase in the circulation of illegal weapons coming from areas of conflict in the east.
The SMM visited the Chonhar crossing point on the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) between Kherson region and the Crimean peninsula and spoke with the Ukrainian senior customs officer and senior border guard stationed there. They told the SMM that since 1 January 2015, Russian Federation customs officers on the Crimean side now require a formal customs declaration document to import and export goods.
The situation in Odesa, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk remained calm.
On 14 January, the SMM monitored a commemoration in Lviv for those who died when shrapnel struck a bus on 13 January in Volnovakha (35km south-west of Donetsk) organized by the Association of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Donetsk and eastern Ukraine (see SMM Daily Report 14 January). A crowd of 200 people of all ages, and about equal numbers of men and women, took part. Candles were placed on the ground spelling “Volnovakha.” A priest conducted a public prayer. The SMM did not see any police presence.
The situation in Kyiv remained calm.
For links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/135121