OSCE SMM registers highest level of violence since April 2016


OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine registered intense violence between August 15 and 21 unseen since April 2016. Following agreements made in Minsk a week after a decrease in number of ceasefire violations was observed over the past two days.

Kyiv, September 2, 2016. Over the past two days the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) registered a decrease of ceasefire violations in the east of Ukraine, it resulted from the agreement achieved through the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk to adhere to the ceasefire at the start of the new school year. “We have already noted a drop-off in violence but it is still too early to say if the sides are truly committed to adherence”, said Alexander Hug, First Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. However, during the week between August 15 and 21 the number of recorded mortar rounds nearly tripled and the number of artillery rounds recorded doubled in Donetsk region. “We have not seen such intense violence since April 2016”, noted Mr. Hug.

Last week, between August 22 and 28, SMM recorded a 25 per cent decrease in number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region and a 150 percent increase in Luhansk region, compared to the previous week, with fluctuations on a daily basis. “For instance, we recorded almost 1,000 explosions in the Donetsk airport-Avdiivka-Yasynuvata triangle on Sunday. Four days before in the same area, we recorded 170”, explained Mr. Hug.

Alexander Hug said that the monitors observed many weapons in violation of agreed withdrawal lines. “We spotted four multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) in government-controlled Khlibodarivka in Donetsk region; six MLRS in “DPR”-controlled Chystiakove (formerly Torez); and, two MRLS in “LPR”-controlled Buhaivka”, he noted. The SMM First Deputy Chief Monitor presented the examples of a military compound located some 120 metres from a school in government-controlled Komyshuvakha in Luhansk region on  August 25, and two armed units positioned next to a school in “DPR”-controlled Samiilove on August 28. The monitors also reported about two civilian victims, in Donetsk city Kirovskyi district and in the government-controlled part of Zolote.

The SMM First Deputy Chief Monitor added that several times the monitors were prevented from doing their work. “As well as denying us unhindered access, certain groups also threaten our unarmed civilian monitors”, he emphasized. On 26 August, civilians in so-called “DPR”-controlled Pikuzy (formerly Kominternove) asked the SMM to observe damage to their homes and analyse craters in the area, but the armed “DPR” members refused to allow the SMM to enter the village, claiming it was about to be shelled. “The SMM did not hear any shelling. Our monitors did, however, observe two infantry fighting vehicles in the village”, said Mr. Hug. On 22 August, the so-called “DPR” members in Lukove “aggressively demanded to search SMM vehicles while pointing a machine-gun at our monitors”, he added. Sometimes the sides fired weapons dangerously close to the monitors positions, forcing them to leave. This happened last week in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska, with outgoing firing taking place approximately 600 metres from the SMM forward patrol base, and on Tuesday night in government-controlled Shchastia where mortars impacted within 200 metres of the monitors position.

Mr. Hug stressed again that adherence to the ceasefire depends a lot on the efforts of the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination. According to him, a drop-off in violence during the last 2 days and last Friday in Yasynuvata were the direct result of its work.