Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 1 September 2015
This report is for the media and the general public.
The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements”. Its monitoring was restricted by security considerations*. Few ceasefire violations were recorded, exclusively at or around Donetsk airport. The SMM monitored a peaceful start to the new school year in numerous schools.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Restrictions on SMM monitoring, access and freedom of movement:
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the parties and security considerations, including mine threats, and damaged infrastructure. The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere. Self-imposed restrictions on movement into high-risk areas have impinged on SMM patrolling activities, particularly in areas not controlled by the government. Members of the “LPR” continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring most areas close to the border with the Russian Federation. The sides did not restrict the SMM’s freedom of movement during the reporting period.
 For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.
*Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access, monitoring and freedom of movement” for further information.
For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/179706
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