Violence in East Ukraine grows, as both sides of the conflict moved close to the contact line – OSCE SMM


OSCE Monitors register increase in attacks, threatening to checkpoints closing down in both Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Weapons are missing from the security zone on both sides. OSCE SMM calls upon adhering to the Minsk Agreements.

Kyiv, April 21, 2016. The area around Berezove, about 30 km south-west of Donetsk city, may become a focus of intense violence. At the moment, it is too early to assert that there is a serious risk, but “the signs are worrying,” said Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces have moved positions closer to the contact line. Our monitors are registering some violence there, observing a fresh crater in the middle of the H-20 road on April 16 and hearing an explosion in the general vicinity on April 19. […] This is exactly how it started in all the other areas: low level violence initially, racketing up as the sides moved in more men and hardware, until eventually intense artillery barrages are common place,” explained Mr. Hug at the press briefing in Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Mr. Hug stressed that the SMM is worried by the tendency of sides moving their positions closer to the contact line, as this is a violation of Article 2 of the Minsk Memorandum. He noted that all areas, where sides have moved their personnel and hardware closer together, remain volatile since that time such as, for instance, area north-east of Mariupol, areas along the contact line in western Luhansk and the area near Debatlseve. “Monday evening, for example – in less than three hours – our team in nearby Svitlodarsk recorded over a hundred artillery and mortar explosions. And in Zaitseve, on just one evening last week, we recorded over 170 mortar explosions”, said Mr. Hug. The area of Avdiivka-Yasynuvata remains highly volatile. “On Thursday, our monitors in Yasynuvata logged over 300 explosions”, he stressed.

Mr. Hug reminded as well that Donetsk region cities of Avdiivka, Yasynuvata, Berezove, Debaltseve, Svitlodarsk are on major transportation routes and hubs that also constitute exit/entry points across the contact line. “Zaitseve, along with Stanytsia Luhanska, are already closed because of the fighting. There is now no safe approved place in the entire Luhansk region where people can cross the contact line”, explained the SMM Principal Deputy Chief Monitor. He added that that soon people will be celebrating Orthodox Easter and will wish to celebrate with their friends and families or to visit the graves of their departed loved ones on both sides of the contact line. “In all of these areas where the sides have moved forward, such simple human practices will be extremely difficult, if not impossible,” he explained. Mr. Hug added that often people are afraid to go to cemeteries because of mines and booby-traps, for example, in Kominternove.

“There is another celebration looming, namely May 9, the Victory Day,” added Mr. Hug. “Weapons in the security zone obviously constitute a violation of the Minsk agreements. We have been publicly reporting on them for the past two weeks and will do so, particularly when they appear in populated areas,” emphasized the Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM.