Kyiv, October 29, 2015. The situation in eastern Ukraine is mixed. Though the ceasefire has been largely holding for the last two months, last week the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) observed a higher number of incidents that cannot be attributed to training or demining activities. Some of these involved fatalities, – stated Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine.
According to Mr Hug, the SMM continued to monitor withdrawal of tanks, artillery of up to 100 millimeters in caliber and mortars up to and including 120 millimeters in caliber. The Mission visited a designated permanent storage site. “In one case, in an area outside Ukrainian government control, guards denied the SMM access to a key site. You hardly need me to tell you that this kind of obstruction and interference with the SMM verification process is a violation of the addendum. Our approach is very simple: no access – no verification,” emphasized Mr Hug.
The SMM again faced obstacles in verification of heavy weapons holding areas by the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) that prevented monitoring at several sites. At the same time the SMM reports heavy weapons being absent from holding areas on both sides of the contact line.
As Mr Hug stated, the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) have consistently failed to facilitate effective SMM verification of weapons withdrawal from the contact line, by preventing the SMM from checking weapons serial numbers. The SMM also continued to observe military hardware in the security zones. “The SMM unmanned aerial vehicle spotted 27 tanks in the so-called “DPR”-controlled area and a camouflaged towed artillery piece in government-controlled territory.
There are some clearances in process of demining the territory. The SMM is working together with the Joint Center for Control and Coordination to ensure that vital repairs can be carried out in the region. “But this is a drop in the ocean. Concerted mine action is now needed and it is needed immediately. […] People deserve to have the affected areas mapped, marked, fenced off and ultimately cleared,” elaborated the Deputy Chief Monitor.
After meeting with IDPs from Pisky, the SMM learned that people are concerned with possible looting of their homes. “Later in Pisky itself we saw damage and other signs associated with looting. We also observed a military-type truck loaded with furniture, matrasses and window frames, moving from the area of Pisky”, Mr Hug said.
In so-called “DPR”-controlled Debaltsyve the SMM saw houses damaged beyond repair, armed individuals and unmarked military vehicles on the streets. According to Mr Hug, local residents appeared to be “maintaining a very basic existence”.
Regarding the incident with now former SMM observer, Maksim Udovichenko, Mr Hug stated the following. “We take what happened seriously. Behavior of one person can unfairly tarnish the reputation of many others. This is an isolated case, and the SMM has over 600 monitors who work professionally and tirelessly every day and do not behave like this isolated individual. Our staff abide by our Code of Conduct, working often in extremely difficult and dangerous situations. The professionalism and integrity that they bring to their work and their example is perhaps the real news story here”. He also added that the OSCE doesn’t have a special security clearance procedure as it is a civilian and not a military mission. Also, the SMM recruitment system doesn’t involve any special treatment of representatives of different nationalities.