SMM observes Ukraine and so-called “LPR” withdrawing tanks and artillery pieces as was agreed in Minsk – OSCE Special Monitoring Mission


Kyiv, September 15, 2015. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) continues to observe relative calm in the East of Ukraine. Most small arms fire incidents and explosions were attributed to the military training and demining activities conducted in the region. Despite the low number of cease-fire violation, the SMM did record shelling in some parts of the region that caused casualties and damage. The so-called “Donetsk people’s republic” (“DPR”) claimed that one of its members was killed and two were injured due to what was assessed by the SMM as a 60-mm mortar impact. That was stated by  Michael Bociurkiw, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine spokesman at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Mr. Bociurkiw said that last week four Ukrainian soldiers were injured in government-controlled Troitske (Luhansk region), where the SMM observed the remnants of parts of antitank guided missile and a damaged military excavator on the same day. This incident triggered the convening the emergency meeting of the Trilateral contact group.

The SMM monitored and verified the process of weaponry withdrawal within the first stage of the addendum to the Minsk package of measures. According to Mr. Bociurkiw, the SMM observed withdrawal of main battle tanks by the so-called “Luhansk people’s republic” (“LPR”) and tanks and artillery pieces by the Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The SMM also visited the storage sites at both sides and verified that all weapons declared as withdrawn were present.

“At the same time, heavy weapons that should have been withdrawn over a year ago according to Minsk, still remain on both sides of the contact line,” stressed the SMM spokesman. These are the one antitank guided missile at Ukraine’s side and nearly 30 main battle tanks and other military equipment at the so-called “DPR” side. He also added that compliance rate remains low as heavy weapons continue to be missing from holding areas at both sides of the contact line.

The SMM remains concerned with the freedom of movement situation in the region. The monitors observe long queues at the checkpoints and with the cold weather settling in, this appears as even bigger challenge for civilians. Along with this, Mr. Bociurkiw said that the so-called “DPR” denied or delayed the SMM access to their heavy weapons holding areas while so-called “LPR” prevented the Mission from monitoring the Ukraine-Russia international border. “One member of the so-called “LPR” warned the SMM that monitors might be detained if they proceeded ahead,” he explained. In government-controlled areas the SMM were denied twice of access at the checkpoints. The SMM’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) were jammed while flying over the so-called “DPR” area.

As number of fighting continues to decrease, more and more people return to their homes. In this regard, the rebuilding of their damaged homes remain a big challenge. Also, mines and unexploded ordinance (UXOs) continue to threaten people living in the region and prevent them from resuming agricultural activities. “I would also like to remind you that with upcoming winter, what tends to happen is that UXOs can also move and poses an additional threat,” Mr. Bociurkiw summed.