The security situation in the east has improved for the second consecutive week. “Last week saw a 20 percent decrease in the number of ceasefire violations compared to the previous week. The decrease in the level of violence, if measured in terms of the use of Minsk-proscribed weapons […] has been particularly dramatic. Last week we recorded 185 explosions caused by tanks, mortars and artillery. The comparative number for the previous week was 884. That’s an 80 percent decrease,” said Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
However, according to monitor’s observations, the ceasefire violations happen on a daily basis, especially on the Svitlodarsk bulge. For instance, on Tuesday, February 21, the monitors in Svitlodarsk heard 86 undetermined explosions, five explosions assessed as automatic-grenade-launcher fire, five explosions assessed as impacts of 82mm mortar rounds, nearly 60 bursts of heavy-machine-gun and 50 bursts of small-arms fire. On Wednesday in so-called “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve their monitors heard 298 undetermined explosions. “Based in Svitlodarsk early yesterday morning, they [the monitors] heard over 300 explosions, all within the space of less than two hours”, added Alexander Hug.
Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM reminded that the SMM are waiting for the sides to provide the baseline information about the weapons that have to be withdrawn from the security zone. We have thus far received some information on weapons that the sides previously withdrew. […] We need updated inventories, of weapons currently in the security zone; of weapons to be withdrawn. The actual weapons we have seen and heard firing this week,” he stressed. For instance, on Tuesday in government-controlled areas in violation of the respective withdrawal lines the SMM monitors observed nine tanks; in areas not controlled by the government they observed five tanks. On Wednesday in government-controlled areas they observed six howitzers, and in areas not controlled by the government, two tanks and two infantry fighting vehicles, mounted with an anti-tank-guided missile system.
Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM said that the SMM monitors still face restrictions of their freedom of movement. “When there is more fighting, there are more restrictions,” he noted.
Alexander Hug confirmed that currently there are discussions of suggestions to increase the number of monitors and capacities of the SMM. “These discussions are being held at the Permanent council in Vienna. And once decisions have been reached in the Permanent Council, the OSCE SMM would be in a position to define what it in actual terms would mean on the ground,” he elaborated. This decision will possibly be taken in the end of March, when the OSCE mandate should be extended.