Humanitarian concerns of Ukrainians on both sides of the contact line should supersede any political or military agenda – OSCE SMM


Kyiv-Donetsk, October 23, 2015 – The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is working on opening additional forward patrol bases, assess damaged infrastructure and monitor the withdrawal of weaponry in the region. That was announced by Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM at Ukraine Crisis Media Center via Skype from Donetsk where he said he was assessing the situation, speaking to key interlocutors and consulting with OSCE monitors.

According to Mr Hug, the situation remains calm in most of Donetsk and Luhansk region. Nevertheless, the risk of reescalation is high. The SMM observed explosions and small fire incidents that cannot be attributed to exercises and de-mining activities, leading to a fatality and several injuries.

The SMM is monitoring the 2nd phase of withdrawal of weapons under the addendum to the package of measures agreed in Minsk. Mr Hug stated that the SMM earlier completed monitoring of the withdrawal in part of Luhansk region. The current withdrawal of weapons concerns Donetsk region and part of Luhansk region. Visits to storage sites were conducted and will continue. “We hope that withdrawal will significantly contribute to strengthening the ceasefire and pave the way to a durable peace” – underlined Deputy Chief Monitor. He added that the SMM is ready to open new patrol bases in addition to two bases operating in government-controlled area and one in the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled territory. The SMM is waiting for the so-called “Donetsk Peoples Republic” (“DPR”) to answer on establishing if such a base is within its area of control.

Mr Hug noted that the SMM continues to revisit heavy weapons holding areas and still notes weapons to be missing. That applies to both the Ukrainian and so-called “DPR” sides. “We are yet to be granted access to a designated so-called “LPR” heavy weapon holding area. The absence of a so-called “LPR” heavy weapon holding area, as the militants previously declared, prevents verification of withdrawal of these types of weapons”, he said. Against this backdrop, the SMM observes weapons and military movement in the east of Ukraine. The SMM unmanned air vehicle (UAV) spotted eight main battle tanks in the area-controlled by the so-called “DPR” and 12 more on the Ukrainian side.

As more civilians return to their homes, land mines and unexploded ordinance (UXOs) continue to threaten their lives. According to Mr Hug, this issue was raised this week on the 14th meeting of the Trilateral contact group. Alexander Hug believes “it should take little to convince the Minsk signatories to agree to the mapping, marking and fencing off areas contaminated by UXOs”.

The Deputy Chief Monitor also spoke on the dire humanitarian situation in the region. In some towns, according to the SMM observations, there is a lack of food, gas and electricity. There is an urgent need to repair houses and infrastructure. In some villages and towns people have to live in basements of their homes.  In the so-called “DPR”, people have no access to life-saving medicine and children lack vaccination against childhood deceases. Humanitarian organizations continue to experience difficulties in operating in non-government controlled areas due to so-called “accreditation”.

“All sides under international humanitarian law need to allow safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid. They need to allow aid workers to go about their jobs and not restrict their freedom of movement through bureaucratic hurdles or other obstructions. Humanitarian concerns of Ukrainians on both sides of the contact line should supersede any political or military agenda” – emphasized Alexander Hug.