Fewer violations recorded by the OSCE SMM next to observations on sides moving their weapons closer to the conflict line.
Kyiv, May 13, 2016. The recent peace talks in Berlin proved inconclusive, but there is already “some cause for cautious hopefulness,” stated Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine Alexander Hug at the press-briefing in Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “There were some good ideas on the table that had broad ministerial backing. These need to be elaborated on in Minsk and worked on jointly by the SMM and the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC),” informed Mr. Hug. Answering the journalists question whether it would be possible to deploy an armed OSCE Mission for the period of elections in Donbas region, the Deputy Chief Monitor said that this requires a consensus decision by all the 57 OSCE participating states.
Last week, the SMM recorded a decrease in the number of ceasefire violations, but in some places the situation is particularly worrying. The main hotspots are the Yasynuvata-Avdiivka area to the north of Donetsk and areas south and south-east of government-controlled Svitlodarsk. “Every evening and every night our monitors there have been recording worryingly high numbers of explosions and other signs of fighting,”said Alexander Hug.
The Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM added that despite the relative decrease in the number of ceasefire violations the risk factors remain. “The sides have moved dangerously close to one another in a number of locations and have not reverted this process. We all know where this can lead to, as we saw in Olenivka two weeks ago. The sides have positioned heavy weapons in the security zone,” stressed Mr. Hug. For example, in government-controlled Luhanske near Svitlodarsk the SMM long-range unmanned aerial vehicle spotted an anti-tank gun. In Donetsk the SMM aerial surveillance imagery revealed the presence of four tanks. “All are in breach of the Minsk agreement. They are just a fraction of the total number of weapons in the security zone”, emphasized Mr. Hug.
Alexander Hug informed that this week the SMM monitors again faced “restrictions on their movement, harassment, intimidation and threats”. “In one instance, a so-called “DPR” member pointed a weapon at an SMM patrol as it passed through Lukove, 41 km north-east of Mariupol. Inflammatory and unfounded public remarks by certain so-called “DPR” leaders – which they have failed to substantiate – make the security of our monitors even more precarious,” he explained.
Alexander Hug has also turned attention to the fact that vast areas of the security zone still remain infested with mines and unexploded ordnance. For this reason local people are afraid to work their land. In several villages there are difficulties with accessing healthcare and even food, because the main routes have been closed due to security concerns. The elderly people living in so-called “DPR”-controlled Kruhlyk said to the SMM monitors that they get neither pensions nor humanitarian assistance. Alexander Hug also mentioned that several IDPs living in government-controlled areas have faced difficulties as their social and pension payments were suspended until their residential address is verified. “All governments have a right and indeed an obligation to fight fraud. But measures need to be transparent and those affected need to be notified”, he emphasized.