The SMM observed that fighting continued in and around the destroyed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport, noting over 170 explosions during the reporting period. Because of security restrictions, the SMM was unable to patrol in either the Shyrokyne area (20km east of Mariupol) or government-controlled Avdiivka (15km north of Donetsk).
Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives in Avdiivka told the SMM over the phone that crater analysis conducted by them on 45 impact sites – following the shelling of the coke and chemical plant in Avdiivka (see SMM Daily Reports published on 23 and 25 May, and respectively) – indicated that 122mm artillery rounds, fired from “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (12km north of Donetsk), had been used in the attack.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces commander for government-controlled Dzerzhynsk (42km north of Donetsk) told the SMM in Dzerzhynsk that Ukrainian Armed Forces positions in and around Avdiivka had been shelled by “DPR” forces in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (12km north-north-east of Donetsk). He said that four Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel had been injured in government-controlled Novohorodske (35km north-north-east of Donetsk) on 23 May. He added that Ukrainian Armed Forces commanders were under increasing pressure from frontline personnel to bring forward heavy caliber artillery systems because the “DPR” were, he said, using such systems with impunity.
At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) headquarters in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, told the SMM that two days of calm in Shyrokyne on 22 and 23 May had ended when a “DPR” vehicle in Shyrokyne had hit a mine, killing the four occupants. He dismissed claims by the “DPR” that Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel had fired on the vehicle.
The Luhansk region remained relatively calm. In government-controlled Shchastya (20km north of Luhansk), the SMM, however, heard what it assessed to be outgoing small-arms and heavy-machinegun fire emanating from the Ukrainian Armed Forces positions near Shchastya bridge. Later – whilst at a “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) checkpoint 2km south of the bridge – the SMM heard 17 explosions, which it assessed to have been incoming artillery rounds impacting in or around “LPR”-controlled Kruta Hora (16km north-west of Luhansk). In government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard small-arms fire and six explosions.
The SMM noted the construction of defensive fortifications in government-controlled areas to the south, west and north-west of Donetsk city.
The principal at a school in Donetsk city told the SMM that 10th and 11th graders attend what he described as pre-military service preparedness and medical classes once a week. He said the classes had been introduced by the “DPR” “ministry of education” last summer.
The SMM re-visited three “DPR” and eight Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, observing that the majority of weapons previously recorded were in situ, and that their locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines. At four of the Ukrainian Armed Forces holding areas, however, the SMM noted that a total of 15 artillery pieces and six multiple rocket launcher systems were missing.
Despite claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements or presence in areas that are non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines: (i) in “DPR”-controlled areas, three T-64 main battle tanks (MBT); and, in government-controlled areas, one T-64 MBT.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Lviv and Kyiv.
* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by third parties and security considerations including the lack of information on whereabouts of landmines.
The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the cease-fire does not hold everywhere.
- Personnel at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near government-controlled Volnovakha (56km north-west of Mariupol) asked SMM patrol members to disclose their nationalities. The SMM had to wait for 15 minutes before being allowed to proceed.
- At another Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Volnovakha, personnel prevented the SMM from travelling south, insisting they use an alternative road further west.
- The SMM was denied entrance to a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area. “DPR” members said such a visit had to be pre-arranged with their superior.
- The SMM was held for thirty minutes at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on its way to a heavy weapons holding area. Checkpoint personnel said the patrol could not pass without authorization from their commander. After communicating with him and Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives at the JCCC, the soldiers allowed the SMM to proceed.
- “LPR” members stopped the SMM near “LPR”-controlled Slovianoserbsk (32km north-west of Luhansk), saying they could not travel to “LPR”-controlled Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk) without a special permit from the “LPR” “commander” in Perevalsk (40km south-west of Luhansk). After an hour and a half, other “LPR” members “escorted” the SMM to Sokilnyky, where the “commander” in question explained that a daily “permit” for future patrols was required.
- Between “LPR”-controlled Slovianoserbsk (32km north-west of Luhansk) and “LPR”-controlled Perevalsk (40km south-west of Luhansk), the “LPR stopped the SMM and said they required a special permit to be in the area. The “LPR” “escorted” the SMM back to Luhansk city.