In Digest, Ukraine

Introduction by New Cold, (updated as of Sept 7, 2015)

The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) publishes daily reports of its observer mission in eastern Ukraine. According to the published reports on August 31 and each day afterward, up to Sept. 7, the renewed ceasefire that took effect on September 1 is holding. This ceasefire is a renewed application of the ‘Minsk-2’ ceasefire agreement of Feb. 12, 2015 which the Ukrainian army and paramilitary forces have been violating for months.

The Donetsk News Agency also reports regularly on the state of the ceasefire. For example, it reported on Sept 3 there was no shelling against Donetsk during the preceding 24 hours. The agency is also reporting disturbing signs that Ukrainian forces may be preparing for a military attack before the winter rains and freezing sets in. For example, this report on September 7 warns of Ukrainian activity that may be a harbinger of an attack.

Enclosed are excerpts of the published reports of the OSCE for the days August 31 to Sept. 6, inclusive.

Of note in many of the recent OSCE reports from the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics is recurring news of repairs to schools that were damaged by shelling in preparation for the opening of the new school year on September 1. Less frequent, but often enough, are reports of repairs to hospitals, water systems and other public infrastructure from shellings. The OSCE mission is biased in favour of the government in Kyiv and does not report who, exactly, has been bombarding the schools, hospitals, water infrastructure and other public infrastructure in eastern Ukraine which its reports document, or why they would be doing so.

For its part, the Ukrainian government has not infrequently claimed that such shellings have been perpetrated by the self-defense forces of the territories whose people and communities they defend.

The unbiased reader of the OSCE reports can easily sort the fact from fiction.

Note the ‘citation’ marks around all mention in the OSCE reports of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. That is because as with the Kyiv government, the OSCE does not formally recognize the legality of the republics. Unlike Kyiv, the OSCE does communicate with them.

This website item will continue to be updated with the daily OSCE reports as well as other published reports.

* * *

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 6 September 2015

The overall situation observed by the SMM in Donetsk region remained calm.

In Luhansk region, the situation observed by the SMM remained calm with no ceasefire violations recorded on 5 September and one ceasefire violation recorded on 6 September.


Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 4 September 2015 (excerpt)

The SMM observed few ceasefire violations in Donetsk region, and none in Luhansk.

The SMM observed a calm situation overall in the Donetsk region. At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM recorded only one ceasefire violation – an airburst from an anti-aircraft gun 4km north-north-west of its position[1]. At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near government-controlled Marinka (23km west-south-west of Donetsk) located 3km west of the first “DPR” checkpoint on the road to Donetsk city, the SMM saw and heard two incoming explosions by 82mm mortars approximately 200m north of its position.

In a field 4km north-west of “DPR”-controlled Yenakiieve (37km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed an on-going field exercise with live ammunition, conducted with main battle tanks (MBT), and saw at least four airbursts and four impacts 2-3km west of its position. In addition, the SMM heard intensive outgoing heavy-machine gun and small-arms fire at distances ranging between 3 and 5km north-west of its position…

On 3 September, in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM met with the deputy “chief” of the city “police department” who informed that the “department” had only approximately 30 percent of its pre-conflict staff as most had left the job due to the conflict and that the “department” faced difficulties in recruiting new staff due to low numbers of applicants. However, the population in the city had also decreased to 210,000 people compared to 300,000 people before the conflict, he noted…

In Luhansk region, the SMM observed a calm situation overall and recorded no ceasefire violations.

In a training area in “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Myrne (28km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed five MBT tanks (T-64).

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 3 September 2015 (excerpt)

The SMM observed a calm situation in Donetsk region. At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at “DPR”-controlled Donetsk railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard what it assessed was a controlled explosion[1].

… In Luhansk, the SMM recorded no ceasefire violations.

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 1 September 2015  (full text)

KYIV–Positioned 1km south-east of the destroyed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport (9km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed 34 explosions – all but one 6-8km to the south – between 11:10 and 13:25hrs. The exception was recorded close to government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk). The SMM observed no ceasefire violations elsewhere in the Donetsk region or in the Luhansk region.[1]

Immediately south of “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol) – close to the last known location over which an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was flying before all contact with it was lost the previous day (see Daily Report, 1 September 2015) – the SMM spoke to a number of residents. They separately said that they had heard – at approximately the same time as contact with the UAV was lost, and in the same location where it was lost – the sound of two small explosions, and had then seen smoke in the air. One of them said he had heard the sound of an aerial vehicle immediately prior to the explosions. Two days prior to the loss of the SMM UAV, the same UAV – flying 1.2km south of the location over which the UAV was subsequently lost – recorded the presence of a surface-to-air missile system (9K35 “Strela-10”).

The SMM visited two schools in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) on the opening day of the academic year. At School 16, it noted that all damage caused by shelling the previous week had been repaired. The principal told the SMM that 207 pupils were enrolled, as opposed to 470 before the conflict. He added that text books had been mainly supplied from the Russian Federation. He said the curriculum had been approved by “DPR” “authorities”, with “My Motherland Donbas” the theme for the first day of classes. The SMM noted two armed men dressed in camouflage in the school yard, said by staff to be school security. At another school in the town, the SMM observed posters on the front door outlining protection measures in the event of shelling and the dangers posed by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and mines.

At School 19 in Donetsk city, the principal told the SMM that some parents were reluctant to send their children there, given its proximity to the airport, which he said partly explained the reduced enrolment. Before the conflict, there had been 800 pupils, whereas currently only 300 attended, he said. The school had most recently been shelled on 9 February, he said, with repairs paid for by the German government. Although an adapted Russian Federation curriculum was used, the principal said Ukrainian was taught, as well as English and German. At School 21 in the city, the principal told the SMM that pupils from grades nine to 11 would henceforth be taught “Military Studies”.

At Shakhtarsk Gymnasium – a school in  “DPR”-controlled Shakhtarsk (47km north-east of Donetsk) – the principal told the SMM that “DPR” “authorities” had provided 95% of the funds required to replace windows which had been mostly damaged by shelling. The school itself financed repairs to the roof, which he said had been hit by a mortar round the previous year. Attendance numbers – 920 before the conflict – were now 650, he added.

At a school in government-controlled Krasnohorivka (21km west of Donetsk), the SMM observed significant damage caused by shelling to windows, walls and the roof, which the principal said could be repaired within a month if there were no fighting. He said the school – which had only approximately 25 percent of its pre-conflict enrollment – also hosted another local school which had lost approximately 90 percent of its pre-conflict enrollees. The principal of another school in the town told the SMM that the school had suffered significant damage – sustaining 12 direct hits on 3 June, and most recently, two on 27 August – forcing staff and pupils to abandon the building. They are now housed in another school in the town. At that school, the SMM also spoke to another school principal, who said they had been forced to relocate, too, because their building was occupied by 20 Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers.

(Note by New Cold editors: The town of Krasnohorivka is in the vicinity of the small city of Mariinka. The area was the scene of heavy fighting three months ago because Mariinka was the staging ground of artillery shelling by Ukrainian forces against the city of Donetsk. Self-defense forces of Donetsk launched an attack on Mariinka to neutralize the constant shelling by Ukraine coming from there. It was a controversial move in the DPR, even though the population was pressuring authorities to ‘do something’ about Ukrainian shelling. The attack was unsuccessful in capturing Mariinka but it did damage heavily the Ukrainian shelling positions.)

At a school in government-controlled Avdiivka (15km north-west of Donetsk), the principal told the SMM that 560 pupils were attending, compared to 700 before the conflict. Teacher numbers were down 50 percent, he added. The SMM observed the school basement, which has been converted into a shelter, with beds, blankets and water.

The principal of a recently-repaired school in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk) told the SMM that only 70 pupils – compared to 180 before the conflict – were enrolled. He added that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had recently conducted mine/UXO awareness lessons for teachers, parents and children, given that the area around the village was heavily contaminated.

Staff at a school in each of the government-controlled villages of Toshkivka, Novotoshkivka and Zolote (60, 53 and 60km north-west of Luhansk, respectively) told the SMM that preparations for the beginning of the school year had been completed. Repair work had been financed by the Luhansk regional administration and heating fuel – or alternatives – was available for the upcoming winter, they said. They added that English or German was an obligatory foreign language in the curriculum and Russian was optional.

The deputy head of the “city administration” of “LPR”-controlled Zymohiria (28km west of Luhansk) told the SMM that 500 pupils had attended the opening day at local primary and secondary schools. He did not provide further figures but said this represented a drop on the previous year. He added that text books and stationary had been provided as humanitarian aid from the Russian Federation.

At a press conference in Luhansk attended by the SMM, the “LPR” “minister of finance” announced that as of 1 September the Russian ruble (RUB) would become the “official currency” of the “LPR”. All payments would also be possible in Ukrainian Hryvnia, U.S. dollars and Euro, he added. (Note by New Cold editor: As of Sept 1, 2015, the Russian ruble also becomes the official currency of the Donetsk People’s Republic.)

A staff member at the main post office in Luhansk told the SMM that delivery of letters was only possible within the “LPR” and “DPR”. She said no stamps had been issued by either the “LPR” or “DPR” but upon payment at the post office, letters were franked and subsequently sent.

The SMM revisited one “DPR” heavy weapons holding area, whose location corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines, finding that all previously-recorded weapons were present.

The SMM noted the presence of two main battle tanks in a “DPR”-controlled area within the respective withdrawal lines.

On 31 August, the SMM monitored a peaceful picket – consisting of approximately 60 young men and women and overseen by one police officer – outside a Russian-owned shoe shop in Lviv. Elsewhere in Lviv, the SMM noted that a similar picket – with 30 young people – was held outside a Russian-owned bank, which shares the same building as the SMM.

Following a riot outside Parliament in Kyiv the previous day (see Spot Report 31 August 2015), the SMM found the situation to be calm, albeit a heavy security presence was on hand, with approximately 40 police officers and National Guardsmen in front of the building and approximately 200 riot police on stand-by in an adjacent park.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk.

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 31 August 2015  (excerpt)

The number of ceasefire violations observed remained at a similar level compared with the previous day in Donetsk. No ceasefire violations were recorded in the Luhansk region. The SMM observed preparations for the start of the school year in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In Kyiv the SMM monitored a protest outside the national Parliament which turned violent.

During the observation period, the SMM, from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), observed no explosions at and around Donetsk airport (9km north-west of Donetsk), although between 14:56 and 16:11hrs, it did hear approximately 100 small arms being fired at distances ranging between 4 and 6km north of its position[1].

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC told the SMM that while the number of ceasefire violations had significantly decreased, the security situation remained tense. According to him, over the last two days there was no recorded use of heavy weapons.

The SMM heard several explosions in areas north-east of Mariupol, such as “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol) and government-controlled Pavlopil (26km north-east of Mariupol).

At a “DPR” training area and shooting range in Rozy Liuksemburh (45km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard five explosions and shooting, which it assessed to have been fired from infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), anti-tank guns (ATGs) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM).

At 10:13hrs, while flying south of “DPR”-controlled Sontseve (59km north-east of Mariupol), all contact with an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was abruptly lost. Contact with the UAV was not restored by 13:45hrs, by which time the UAV must have run out of fuel. At this point, following the procedures, the aircraft was declared lost. An SMM patrol went to the last known location over which the UAV was flying on a field 1.5km south of the village, where the SMM was stopped by two armed “DPR” members, who denied the SMM further access to the area*. However, when looking towards the probable crash area, the SMM could observe burned patches on the ground.


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