Kyiv, September 8, 2015. OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) staff have confirmed the withdrawal of weapons last week under the agreements reached in Minsk. Both Ukraine and the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) have started this process. The leaderships of both sides have notified the SMM in writing that the withdrawal of tanks as part of the first stage had been completed. This was announced by Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. He added that in order to facilitate the monitoring process, the SMM has established forward patrol bases in the so-called “LPR”-controlled Stakhanov and government-controlled Novoaidar in Luhansk region and Volnovakha in Donetsk region.
According to Mr. Hug, the number of small arms firing incidents has significantly decreased. Yet, he stressed that “just yesterday in government controlled Troitske the SMM followed up on reports about two anti-tank guided missiles being fired, injuring Ukrainian soldiers”. Mr. Hug then added, “Every shot fired in that part of the country represents a violation of the Minsk agreements regardless from which gun or weapon it was fired”.
The Deputy Chief Monitor also underlined that heavy weapons continue to be missing from the holding areas at both Ukrainian and the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) sides. Along with that, the SMM observed heavy weaponry and equipment in breach of withdrawal lines on several occasions. Two towed artillery pieces, a self-propelled howitzer and a tank were detected in the so-called “DPR”-controlled area. In the so-called “LPR” area, the SMM observed 12 self-propelled howitzers and seven towed howitzers.
Land mines and unexploded ordinance remain serious threats to civilians, especially those who are returning to their homes. Among affected areas the SMM named 35 thousand hectares of agricultural land near the government-controlled Pavlopil and at least nine areas around the so-called “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka. “We are convinced that a stronger framework is needed to deal with this threat, that will set out mutually agreed principles and enable those who laid those mines to work together to identify priorities and address them,” added Alexander Hug.
Mr. Hug pointed out that the upcoming winter presents several additional challenges, including higher prices for coal, gas and electricity. Moreover, according to SMM observations, coal prices differ greatly: from 40 euro per ton in the so-called “DPR” to 160 euro per ton in government controlled territories. Humanitarian organizations operating in the nongovernment controlled areas continue to experience difficulties with so-called ‘accreditation’. The International Committee of the Red Cross remains the only humanitarian aid provider in the so-called “LPR”.
In order to contribute to security of movement in the region, the SMM facilitated the repair of the bridge in Stanitsa Luhanska. “Once repaired it will greatly improve safety and access across the contact line,” Alexander Hug added.