The SMM observed relatively low-level but persistent fighting in the area of Donetsk airport in “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk city, noting 73 explosions over eight hours during the reporting period. The SMM observed the explosions from the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at the Donetsk central railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre) and concluded that they were consistent with artillery shelling mainly to the north and west of the SMM’s position, from where the SMM also heard sporadic small-arms and light-weapons fire to the west between 14:10 and 18:00hrs.
At the JCCC observation point the Ukrainian Armed Forced representative told the SMM that six additional representatives from JCCC headquarters in Soledar – three Ukrainian Armed Forces and three Russian Federation Armed Forces officers – had come to help monitor ceasefire violations in the area and determine responsibility. He added that, as a result, he expected a decrease in violations during their three-day deployment.
The SMM assessed the situation around Donetsk airport by speaking with the Ukrainian Armed Forces representative to the JCCC office in Avdiivka (government-controlled, 15km north of Donetsk), who reported heavy mortar shelling (82mm and 120mm) during the evening of 25 May targeting Avdiivka as well as government-controlled Opytne and Pisky (10km north-north-west and 10km north-west of Donetsk, respectively). Meanwhile, the Russian Federation Armed Forces Chief of Operations in Soledar described the general security situation as stable but tense, and added that Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 36km north-north-east of Donetsk) also remains a hotspot.
In southern Donetsk region, the SMM was unable to monitor the situation in and around Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) due to security concerns. Further, residents of Vodiane (government-controlled, 19km north-east of Mariupol) told the SMM they continue to hear shelling around Shyrokyne as well as in the direction of government-controlled Chermalyk and Hranitne (31km and 46km north-east of Mariupol, respectively).
The SMM observed that the overall situation in the Luhansk region remained calm. Though in government-controlled Shchastia (20km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard a total of seven explosions – including five explosions to the east that government-checkpoint personnel said were 82mm mortar rounds fired from “LPR”-controlled territory and two outgoing rounds (type unknown). And while in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north of Luhansk), the SMM heard three explosions in the direction of “LPR”-controlled territory.
In government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed continued frustration by civilians denied passage across the line of contact in both directions by Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint personnel. Some 100 people, mainly middle-aged and older women, waited to cross the bridge there into “LPR”-controlled territory and some 150 people, mainly women and children, were waiting to cross into government-controlled territory. But one government-checkpoint commander told the SMM that the bridge remained closed by order of the Luhansk governor and that only school children and students are allowed to cross into government-controlled territory, while adding that older people and people with disabilities might also “unofficially” be granted passage.
The SMM met with teachers and an education official in the “LPR”-controlled towns of Molodohvardiysk and Krasnodon (35km and 43km south-east of Luhansk, respectively). Among the issues they raised were that teachers and staff members continue to work despite not having been paid since at least January, and that “LPR education authorities” were in the process of preparing teachers to switch from the Ukrainian to the Russian school curriculum by August.
The SMM re-visited two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas. At one site, the SMM observed that all the weapons previously recorded there were in situ, in compliance with the Minsk withdrawal lines. At the other site, the SMM was not able to conclude that the previously recorded weapons were in situ – observing that the serial numbers on four BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket systems (122mm) were different from what had previously been recorded and also observing that two previously recorded D-30 towed howitzers (122mm) were missing. The “DPR” site commander offered no explanation for the different serial numbers on the four Grad MLRS and he said the two howitzers had been taken away for maintenance.
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons has been completed, the SMM observed the following movement or presence of weapons in areas that are non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines: In a government-controlled area, one anti-tank guided missile system on a tracked infantry fighting vehicle. In terms of other military movements, when passing a known “DPR” “military” training area east of Donetsk city, the SMM observed 11 unmarked main battle tanks (T-72s). Also east of Donetsk, the SMM observed a convoy of 15 military-type trucks, including five fuel tankers, driving east.
In Kyiv the SMM observed approximately 40 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly women and children, receiving humanitarian aid at the large volunteer-run Centre for Assistance to IDPs. Staff said the number of IDPs they serve daily, some 150 people, has been decreasing since February, though they have also recently seen new IDPs from Crimea.
In Lviv the SMM monitored a torchlight march on 24 May in honour of the “Day of Heroes.” A group of some 100 people, mainly men between 20 and 60 years old and mainly Svoboda Party supporters, took part in the procession, which ended at the city’s monument to Stepan Bandera. Speeches were made and the national anthem was played before the crowd peacefully dispersed. Approximately 30 police officers provided security while another 50 officers directed traffic around the march.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Kherson, Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk.