The level of violence in Eastern Ukraine decreased by 10 times compared to the previous week – SMM OSCE

Overall, violence in Eastern Ukraine has decreased across all fronts. However, the OSCE SMM still recorded varying levels of violence around the Donetsk airport, northeastern Mariupol, and outside of Horlivka. In addition, the SMM monitors are still being threatened in the region.

Kyiv, August 5, 2016. Last week, there was a significant decrease in the level of violence in the east of Ukraine. The OSCE monitors recorded 209 ceasefire violations compared to more than 2,000 the previous week. There were almost no ceasefire violations in Stanytsia Luhanska. “However, just this Tuesday night, our monitors stationed in Stanytsia Luhanska recorded 114 explosions and more than 400 instances of small-arms fire in the area”, said Alexander Hug, First Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, at a press conference in Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

In the Donetsk region, the SMM recorded almost the same number of ceasefire violations as in the previous week. “The main concentration of violence was in the Yasynuvata-Avdiivka-Donetsk airport area. 58 per cent of all the ceasefire violations in the region were recorded there”, said Mr. Hug.  For instance, last Saturday the OSCE monitors, positioned in Yasynuvata, controlled self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), within 2,5 hours recorded a salvo of approximately 20 outgoing Grad rockets, 51 undetermined explosions, and some 40 mortar impacts. Other hotspots in the previous week included areas east and northeast of Mariupol, the western and northwestern outskirts of Horlivka and areas along the Debaltseve-Svitlodarsk road. Violence levels around Mariupol and Horlivka decreased last week, but increased along the Debaltseve-Svitlodarsk road. “The SMM recorded 329 explosions there last week, compared to 96 the previous week, noted Alexander Hug.

Mr Hug informed that the SMM recorded” a large number of facts when the prescribed weapons were located close to the frontline and in residential areas. In the so-called “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve, an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle captured 50 military-type vehicles, including armoured combat vehicles. In Novohryhorivka, north of Debaltseve, it spotted a MTLB command vehicle parked among trees, right next to a number of houses. On Monday, the monitors revealed the presence of a self-propelled artillery system 16 kilometres north of Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov), controlled by the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). Alexander Hug added that the previous night, three people in Kadiivka were injured in the shelling, two of who are still in critical condition. On the same day in Yasynuvata, the monitors saw the aftermath of shelling in a residential area.  A 51-year old man had died in that attack. “Through crater analysis, they were able to determine that 122mm artillery rounds had been fired form a west-north-westerly direction”, informed Alexander .

The First Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM also informed that this week there were new incidents of threats and intimidation of the SMM monitors. “We have had an armed man chamber a round in his rifle, release the safety catch and point his rifle at one of our monitors in government-controlled Lobacheve, north-west of Luhansk city. Having just seen tracks in so-called “DPR”-controlled Lukove indicating the presence of proscribed heavy weapons, our monitors also faced aggressive threatening behaviour from armed “DPR” members, swearing and pointing weapons at them”, said Mr. Hug. He added that the next day another armed so-called “DPR” member at a weapons storage site was loading his weapon and ordering the monitors about. In so-called “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka an unknown armed man fired bursts of automatic fire within metres of two OSCE bases, and in Horlivka the so-called “DPR” members fired artillery just 300 metres from the SMM forward patrol base.

Mr. Hug also mentioned that 4 SMM UAVs were shot down. These incidents happened on both sides of the contact line. He noted that north of so-called “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve, the monitors saw a sophisticated mobile communications jamming station. “It’s a ‘Zhitel,’ just like one we spotted south of Donetsk city not so long ago. It’s high tech, very expensive military-grade kit. It is used not only to intercept information, but to disable control over UAVs, and force them to crash”, explained Mr. Hug. Coming back to the incidents with shot UAVs, he said that the SMM got an admission from a Ukrainian officer at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination that Ukrainian soldiers had fired at one of the UAVs. The monitors also received such admission from a Russian Federation Armed Forces representative to the JCCC, who said that two so-called “LPR” members had been identified and disciplined for shooting at another UAV. “It’s a start, and better than nothing. But more, much more, needs to be done to control these rogue elements” – stressed Alexander Hug.