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

(The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

–Armed men threatened to shoot SMM monitors in Vesela Hora. The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, including a sharp increase in the number of explosions compared with the previous reporting period. In Luhansk region the Mission recorded fewer ceasefire violations compared with the previous reporting period. The Mission followed up on reports of casualties in Donetsk city and Borzhykivka. The SMM observed impact sites in Pikuzy. The Mission continued monitoring the three disengagement areas; it recorded ceasefire violations near Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area. Its access remained restricted there and elsewhere, including again in Novoazovsk near the border with the Russian Federation.* The SMM visited one border area not under government control.

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, including a sharp increase in the number of explosions (almost 1,000), compared with 40 explosions in the 

During the night of 28-29 June, while in Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard one undetermined explosion 8-10km north-west.

On the night of 28-29 June the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded, in total, 246 explosions, 16 tracer rounds in flight from west to east and 41 tracer rounds in flight from east to west, all at undetermined distances north, north-east and north-north-west.

While in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) on the same night, the SMM heard and saw 50 undetermined explosions assessed as caused by artillery (calibre unknown) fire 6-7km north-north-west, and heard 15 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds of recoilless gun (SPG-9, 73mm), ten explosions assessed as impacts of mortar (82mm) rounds, and one undetermined explosion, all 4-6km south-east, south-south-east and south.

On 29 June, the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north-west of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, seven undetermined explosions, 35 explosions assessed as impacts, one airburst, 16 explosions assessed as impacts, one airburst, 48 explosions assessed as impacts and, all 3-5km north-east, east and east-south-east. On the same day, positioned in Avdiivka, in 50 minutes, the SMM heard 63 undetermined explosions 3-5km east-south-east.

Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk), in a period of just over three hours, the SMM heard at least 438 undetermined explosions, nearly 80 bursts and around 15 shots of automatic-grenade-launcher and small-arms fire, in addition to five minutes of uncountable and overlapping undetermined explosions and 20 minutes of continuous, uncountable and overlapping small-arms fire, over a period of about six hours, all 2-5km north, west, and north-west. The SMM also heard 34 undetermined explosions 1-3km east and south-east. While present, the SMM informed the representatives from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) that there was fighting in the area of Yasynuvata and requested that the JCCC contribute to restoring the ceasefire. Around 16:00 the SMM departed the area but maintained contact with the JCCC, which confirmed that shelling was ongoing despite JCCC attempts to contribute to restoring the ceasefire on multiple occasions until after midnight on 30 June.

In Luhansk region the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations, including about 33 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (170 explosions).

On the night of 28-29 June, while in Popasna the SMM heard 16 explosions assessed as outgoing artillery (calibre unknown) rounds 8km south, and two explosions assessed as impacts of 152mm artillery rounds, four explosions assessed as caused by automatic grenade launcher fire, and 44 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire 4-5km north-east, south-east, south-south-east and south-west.

Positioned about 1km east of “LPR”-controlled Almazna (56km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard, over about six minutes, ten undetermined explosions 10-20km south-east.

The SMM followed up on reports of casualties. The SMM spoke with a man who said he had been injured in an explosion on 22 June at Vakhrusheva Street 46 in “DPR”-controlled Kuibyshevskyi district (7km north-west of Donetsk city centre). He said he had been speaking to two men in military-type uniforms in the corridor on the third floor of his apartment building and that he had heard a loud explosion and felt blood on his right arm and leg, as he had turned to walk away. The SMM saw bandages on his hand. Medical personnel at hospital no. 21 in the same district told the SMM that the man had been treated the same day for blast injuries and burns related to an explosion, and later released.

Following media reports about a civilian death and two civilians injured as a result of an explosion, allegedly caused by a landmine, near “LPR”-controlled Borzhykivka (66km west of Luhansk), the SMM spoke with the director of an agricultural college in “LPR”-controlled Komisarivka (60km west of Luhansk), who told the SMM that he had known the man who was fatally injured in the blast, and that a truck destroyed in the explosion was property of the college. In nearby “LPR”-controlled Verhulivka (64km west of Luhansk), five men (aged 50-60 years old) told the SMM that the explosion had occurred and that a man (about 30 years old) had been killed and had already been buried.  On 26 and 29 June, the SMM visited three separate hospitals, in Alchevsk (40km west of Luhansk), Perevalsk (38km west of Luhansk), and Brianka (46km south-west of Luhansk), respectively but was unable to confirm information about the man from medical personnel and whether he had been a patient at any of the hospitals. A man present who said he worked in an “LPR” structure told SMM that it needed to request information from “LPR” members in Luhansk about the deceased.

The SMM observed impact sites in “DPR”-controlled Pikuzy (formerly Kominternove, 23km north-east of Mariupol). Near Anny Akhmatovoi Street 50, the SMM saw a crater about 50m north of the nearest store in the city centre. The SMM assessed that the crater was fresh and caused by a mortar (82mm) round. On Anny Akhmatovoi Street 54, the SMM saw a crater on the hard surface of the road. The SMM assessed that it was fresh and caused by a 120mm mortar round. The SMM could not assess the direction of fire in either case. The SMM could also see that the south-west-facing wall and the metal gate had minor shrapnel damage.

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 28 June, the SMM camera in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska recorded, one flare in flight from south to north about 1km south, assessed as inside the disengagement area.

On the evening of 25 June, the SMM camera in government-controlled Zolote recorded one projectile in flight from south-west to north-east, 4-7km south-south-west, assessed as outside the disengagement area. On the night of 27 June, the same camera recorded six shots of small-arms fire 2-3km east, assessed as outside the disengagement area.

On 29 June, near a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint west of the disengagement area, the SMM saw a KRAZ Cougar military vehicle mounted with a heavy machine-gun, and two rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPG-26).

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 respective withdrawal lines, the SMM saw a self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) in the centre of Pikuzy, some 15m from an abandoned former town administration building.

The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage does not comply with the criteria set in the 16 October 2015 notification. In non-government-controlled areas the SMM observed six pieces of towed artillery (2A65/Msta-B, 152mm) and five pieces of self-propelled artillery (2S1) and noted as missing three pieces of towed artillery (2A65/Msta-B, 152mm), four pieces of self-propelled artillery (2S1), and in one case, the SMM noted that the site was empty and six towed anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) were absent.

The SMM revisited a “DPR” permanent storage site, whose location corresponded with the withdrawal lines. The SMM noted three weapons were present for the first time and that nine tanks (three T-64 and six T-72) were again missing.

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles and tracks of armoured vehicles[2] in the security zone. In government-controlled areas the SMM observed one infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-1) near a Ukrainian Armed Forces bunker in Stanytsia Luhanska (outside the disengagement area), one armoured personnel carrier (APC) (BTR-4) near Toshkivka (60km north-west of Luhansk), and one APC (BTR-80) traveling south near Vrubivka (72km west of Luhansk).

On 27 June, in a government-controlled area of Zolote, imagery from an SMM mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) revealed a military encampment with numerous trenches, two underground bunkers, two vehicle revetments covered by camouflage netting and two infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) (BMP-2).

In areas not controlled by the Government, the SMM observed fresh tracked-vehicle markings consistent with an APC (MT-LB) chassis between Oleksandrivsk (10km west of Luhansk) and Metalist (7km north-west of Luhansk), and another set of tracks between Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk) and Svitle (11km north of Luhansk).

On 28 June, an SMM UAV spotted two air defence systems (type undetermined) near a railway yard near Rovenky (54km south of Luhansk). The SMM also observed several cars of coal and tank cars, assessed as oil or diesel cars.

The SMM visited one border area not under government control. During 60 minutes at the border crossing point in Verkhnoharasymivka (57km south-east of Luhansk) the SMM saw 37 civilian cars (25 with Ukrainian licence plates, nine with Russian Federation licence plates, and three with “LPR” plates) in the parking lot. While present at the border area, the SMM saw five pedestrians (all male, 30-40 years old) exiting Ukraine, and three pedestrians (one male 60-70 years old, and two females 30-50 years old) entering Ukraine. The two women told the SMM that they are residents of the Russian Federation and were going to visit relatives in areas not controlled by the Government in Luhansk region.

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. 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; including at the disengagement area near Petrivske.

Denial of access:

  • A Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that no demining activities had taken place during the previous 24 hours in the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area and that, with the exception of the main road, the SMM’s safety could not be guaranteed in the surrounding areas due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • Armed “LPR” members positioned on the southern side of the Zolote disengagement area (3km north of Pervomaisk) told the SMM that they could not guarantee the safety of the Mission on side roads due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • At a checkpoint on the northern edge of the Zolote disengagement area a Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that no de-mining had taken place over the previous 24 hours and that, due to the possible presence of mines and/or UXO, they could not guarantee the SMM’s safety. 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) as Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM was not able to conduct a mini unmanned aerial vehicle flight near Staromykhailivka (15km west of Donetsk) as a barrier was blocking the road and the SMM could not proceed to the launch site.
  • At a checkpoint on E58 road north of “DPR”-controlled Novoazovsk (40km east of Mariupol), three armed men denied the SMM access into the town. The SMM informed the JCCC.

Other impediments:

  • In “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora, two “LPR” members (males, 25-30 years old) armed with assault (7.62mm) rifles, wearing grey camouflaged clothing without insignia or badges and with black balaclavas covering their faces approached the SMM vehicles. They asked the SMM patrol members in both vehicles if they had been in the same settlement the day before and alleged that SMM members had congratulated residents on the day of the Ukrainian constitution. The armed men told the SMM members that they would shoot the SMM members if such a message was repeated. The SMM left the area and informed the JCCC.
  • In “LPR”-controlled Yasenivskyi (46km south of Luhansk) a male employee of a coal mine told the SMM that it needed to get permission from “LPR” members in Luhansk in order to speak to him.

[1] 13616 for complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report.

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

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