Kyiv, February 19, 2016. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of OSCE saw lots of hardware, dug-in positions, men in uniform, and generally, battle-readiness during its visit to Donetsk region. Nevertheless, monitors saw no violence there. “Not even one shot fired at the hotspots”, – said Alexander Hug, Principle Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine at the press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “I draw one conclusion from this: it is evident that the sides can – when they want to – silence the guns”, he followed.
However, according to Mr Hug, that was the exception to the rule, as in the past couple of weeks, there has been a massive increase in the use of mortars. “We recorded 514 instances where mortars were used last week and 486 the week before. We expect an even higher count this week. On Monday evening alone, for example, our monitors – based in Svitlodarsk – heard more than 300 explosions caused by mortars”, Alexander Hug elaborated.
“We regularly see large numbers of weapons, in particular tanks, just immediately beyond the withdrawal lines. They sit there – armed and battle-ready – within easy reach of the contact line. This day last week, for instance, we saw a total of 88 tanks at three locations in areas not controlled by the government.
According to the Principle Deputy Chief Monitor, on Saturday monitors witnessed an intense two-hour exchange of fire between the sides based in Maryinka and nearby Oleksandrivka. They saw hundreds of rounds of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, over 100 rounds from automatic grenade launchers, and at least 12 mortar rounds. “The result – as we saw in Mayorsk earlier – has been the closure of the checkpoint at Maryinka”, he added.
Alexander Hug also announced that yesterday the SMM received the news that its Mandate had been renewed for another 12 months.