OSCE visits reportedly occupied Kominternove, limited to main street only
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine arrived in the reportedly occupied village of Kominternove (92km south of Donetsk, 23km north-east of Ukrainian-held Mariupol) at 10:25 local time on December 24, and an SMM patrol was escorted by armed "Donetsk People's Republic" ("DPR") members, who did not let the OSCE monitors go beyond the main street of the village, according to a sport report by the OSCE SMM.
An SMM patrol in Kominternove was escorted by armed "Donetsk People's Republic" members / Photo from UNIAN
"The escorting "DPR" members did not allow the SMM to go beyond the main street of the village, citing possible sniper fire. While on the main street, the SMM saw multiple fresh caterpillar tracks, consistent with infantry fighting vehicles and tanks," the sport report reads.
For the last two days, the SMM had attempted to reach the village to follow up on reports about the presence of armed "DPR" members, but had not been able to do so due to security concerns and the restriction to its freedom of movement imposed by armed personnel.
Five residents (three women and two men), in the presence of the escorting armed personnel, told the SMM that armed "DPR" members entered the village on December 22 and were present until December 24, when they left the village in the early morning.
"At 13:00hrs, the SMM left the village. During its time there, the SMM did not observe any armed persons or weaponry, with the exception of the escorting armed "DPR" members; nor did the SMM observe any ceasefire violations," the sport report said.
The SMM also conducted a mirror patrol in the west of Kominternove but could not get closer than a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint located 1.7km west of the village as explosive devices (including anti-tank mines) were still on the road between the checkpoint and the village.
On Thursday evening, the Anti-Terrorist Operation's headquarters said that Russian-backed militants had left Kominternove with all their equipment and military hardware.
At the same time, TSN journalist Andriy Tsaplienko, who has been monitoring developments in the occupied village, wrote on Facebook, citing local residents' reports, that DPR militants had returned to Kominternove shortly after the OSCE patrol had left the village.
"A hundred armed men left Kominternove. But they didn't go far away. Locals even showed OSCE monitors the direction they had gone in. Of course, they [the monitors] will write in their reports that they did not meet the armed people in the village," the journalist wrote.
After the OSCE monitors left, the well-hidden company consisting of DPR militants and Russian soldiers, who were sitting on the top of armored vehicles, returned to Kominternove at about 14:30 local time on the same day.
"The show 'We Aren't There' goes on," the journalist wrote.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in turn commented on the situation around Kominternove in its statement on Thursday evening.
Мета провокації в Комінтерновому – спровокувати українські війська, щоб звинуватити Україну в порушенні Мінських домовле...Опубликовано Генеральний штаб ЗСУ / General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine 24 декабря 2015 г.
"The provocation in Kominternove is aimed at framing up the Ukrainian troops in order to accuse Ukraine of violating the Minsk agreements," the statement said.
"The villages of Kominternove, Vodiane, and Zaichenkove belong to the separate districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions where the special procedure of local government is in effect under the laws. Accordingly, one cannot say this is the occupation of the Ukrainian-controlled localities," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.
At the same time, the statement said, the provocation was in militants' brining their heavy military hardware closer than the Minsk protocol allows, which is an explicit violation of the peace agreements.
"Let us emphasize: neither the National Police of Ukraine nor 'the intelligence of the National Police' performs its duty beyond the contact line, therefore they cannot be the source of latest updates," the General Staff said.