Kyiv, December 2015. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) opened two new Forward Patrol Bases in Debaltseve today and Horlivka yesterday. They are to allow the monitors to increase their operational scope in areas not controlled by the government. The Mission is also about to establish two observation points in at the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) controlled Oktiabr mine and in government controlled Avdiivka. The SMM also plans to go operational with the cameras in Avdiivka, Shyrokyne and at Donetsk airport. This was announced by Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine at the press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center via Skype from Debaltseve. “This will give us a 360 degree view of two critical areas on a 24/7 basis,” he explained.
Mr Hug also reported that fighting continues in many areas of Donbas. The epicenter remains areas at and around Donetsk airport. This Tuesday, monitors recorded 92 explosions there. Six of the explosions were caused by 82mm mortars, banned from the security zone. The SMM also saw heavy weapons inside agreed withdrawal lines. “On Saturday, for example, we saw 12 122mm howitzers in so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) controlled Yurivka, south-west of Luhansk”, he added.
Instead of redoubling efforts to adhere to the Minsk agreements, the SMM witnessed a media-driven blame-game, much of it directed at the Mission. The incident that occurred on Friday in the small settlement of Zaitseve, just immediately north of Horlivka is yet another example of it. “Video footage of SMM monitors examining a crater and shrapnel at a location different from the one where the woman died serve only to confuse and distort reality. The SMM will, however, not be deflected by such vile attempts to manipulate the facts and people’s emotions,” Mr. Hug stated.
The danger posed by mines and unexploded ordnance exists all along the contact line. Local people told the SMM, the nearby woods were full of unexploded ordnance and booby traps. The monitors have been observing truck-loads of coal leaving Ukraine through border crossing points not controlled by the Government.
Alexander Hug added that on Wednesday the SMM Kherson team noted indications that electricity had been restored to one of the high-voltage lines crossing the administrative boundary line between Kherson and Crimea.