The SMM continued to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Minsk Protocol and Memorandum and the activities of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC).
On 17 November the SMM met with the governor of Luhansk to discuss ways to facilitate relief activities in the village of Trokhizbenka (45km NW of Luhansk), under the control of Ukrainian forces, where inhabitants have been without electricity and water for several days as a result of heavy shelling. As the village is located close to areas where fighting is ongoing, repair workers have thus far not been able to proceed. The Luhansk governor requested the SMM’s assistance with establishing dialogue with irregular armed groups in the area in order to facilitate a temporary truce that would allow technicians to access the village. On 18 November the SMM met in Perevalsk (40km SW of Luhansk) with Cossack leader Kozytsin, whose armed groups have control of so-called “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) territory close to Trokhizbenka. Mr Kozytsin informed the SMM that he would revert to the SMM in the next few days with information regarding a temporary truce.
On 18 November, when traveling towards Perevalsk, the SMM was not allowed to pass through a CP controlled by Ukrainian forces located at the entrance of a bridge on the north-eastern outskirts of Debaltseve. Instead, the SMM was told to take a long roundabout route to bypass the bridge. On its way back from Perevalsk, the SMM approached the bridge and it stopped at another CP, located directly opposite to the initial one, on the other side of the bridge. As the SMM stopped in expectation of further command, a warning shot was fired by the CP staff in the direction of the OSCE car.
On 17 November the SMM visited “LPR”-controlled Sokilnyky (40km W of Luhansk), which appeared to be abandoned. The SMM observed two T64 tanks with “LPR” flags stationary in the village.
On 17 November the SMM visited “LPR”-controlled Zhovte (19km NW of Luhansk) where local inhabitants said they have been without electricity and water for the last few months. The interlocutors also informed the SMM that they have not received their pensions for the past few months, and expressed concern as to how they would cope during the winter. The SMM visited an “LPR” CP near Zhovte, located towards the direction of Government-controlled Lysychansk and was informed by irregular armed personnel at the CP that it is not possible to travel further without special permission from the “LPR Ministry of Defence”.
On 17 November in Luhansk the SMM monitored a meeting of the Ukrainian and Russian heads of the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) and members of the “LPR”. All participants agreed that no progress could be made in the implementation of the Minsk Memorandum as long as there was no effective and sustainable ceasefire in place.
The SMM visited JCCC sub-sectors in Svitlodars’k and in Soledar (55km NE and 77km N of Donetsk). In both locations members of the JCCC reported that they were ready to carry out patrols when the conditions and proper equipment would allow for it, and that they were waiting to receive additional instructions on patrolling activities from the JCCC HQ in Debal’tseve.
In Talakivka (120km S of Donetsk), controlled by Government forces, the SMM met with the Head of the local village council, which oversees both Talakivka and Hnutove, who reported a serious lack of coal in the villages. According to the interlocutor, the price of coal almost tripled in 2014, largely due to difficulties in transporting the coal through CPs, both those controlled by the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and those controlled by Ukrainian forces. The interlocutor stated that the villages are almost entirely reliant on coal for heating during the winter months.
The SMM visited the town of Vuhlehirs’k (50km NE of Donetsk), controlled by Government forces, which seemed abandoned with no people in the streets. The remaining population has attempted to replace broken windows before winter. The SMM visited a CP controlled by Ukrainian forces on the outskirts of Vuhlehirs’k, where the personnel on duty said that 122mm mortar fire hit the area in close proximity to the CP three days earlier. The SMM observed several craters consistent with 122mm mortar impacts, at approximately 50-70m from the building where Ukrainian soldiers had established their base.
In the city of Donetsk, the overall situation was tense with sporadic shelling in the northern outskirts of the city during the day and late afternoon.
In Kharkiv the situation remained calm.
The SMM met with the co-ordinator of Checkpoints Staff Co-operation of the Dnipropetrovsk regional Police Department. The interlocutor stated that there are 22 CPs operating throughout the Dnipropetrovsk region, each of them manned by 10-15 people from Traffic Police, Local Police, National Guard, SBU, Special Police Battalion and four volunteer battalions such as Kryvbas, Artiomivsk, Dnipro 1 and Sicheslav. The CPs are mainly situated between Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk regions. According to an order from the Regional Police Chief, the Traffic Police are in charge of the CPs or, if they are not present, the Local Police are responsible. He stated that the Police at the CPs, however, carry no responsibility for “Right Sector” and local self-defense volunteer units present at the CPs.
The SMM met with the head of the Passport Office of Komsomolsky district, which operates under the Kherson regional State Migration Services Department, who stated that in addition to their regular work with Komsomolsky district citizens, her office is also responsible for issuing personal documents to all IDPs residing in the Kherson region. For IDPs without identity documents, the office initiates a procedure for establishing identity. The majority of requests relate to children who are obliged by law to obtain their first passports at the age of 16, and persons changing their family name after marriage.
In Odessa the SMM visited the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) co-ordination centre located in the city’s train station. A member of an NGO said that an average of 20 IDPs per day, predominantly single women, with some couples and elderly people, have arrived during the last few weeks. The interlocutor also stated that according to his observations, there are fewer children arriving than during the summertime. IDPs can stay in the co-ordination centre for up to three days, though there are no sanitation facilities. The SMM observed around 30 people, both men and women, in the co-ordination centre waiting room.
In Chernivtsi the situation remained calm.
In Ivano-Frankivsk the SMM met with representatives of the Cultural Association of Hungarians in Transcarpathia who assessed the situation in Transcarpathia as calm and the region as an example of good interethnic relations, where different communities are living peacefully together.