Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine take pictures of a destroyed house in Avdiivka after heavy shelling on February 25, 2017. (AFP photo)
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has lost one of its staffers in east Ukrainian territories where the security body is tasked with monitoring violations of a truce between government and pro-Russia forces.
The OSCE’s current chairman, Sebastian Kurz, who is also the Austrian foreign minister, said on Sunday that one member of OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) was killed and another was injured when an armored vehicle carrying the staff drove on a mine near the village of Pryshyb in Lugansk region.
“Tragic news from Ukraine: SMM patrol drove on mine. One OSCE patrol member killed, one injured,” Kurz wrote on Twitter.
“Those responsible will be held accountable,” Kurz said, while demanding a “thorough investigation” into the case.
OSCE officials in Kiev said the identity and nationality of the slain person had yet to be identified, adding that they were trying to notify the person’s next-of-kin.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) employees look at protesters during a rally in front the OSCE mission in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine on February 15, 2017. (AFP photo)
“Obviously, the blast was strong enough to penetrate an armored vehicle … All of our vehicles are armored,” said an OSCE representative in Kiev.
Pro-Russia forces denied any role in the incident and said that the SMM patrol was responsible for the tragedy as it deviated from the pre-defined routes.
“We have repeatedly drawn the OSCE SMM’s attention to the need to follow security measures while travelling on its monitoring missions,” read a statement by the pro-Russians controlling the self-declared Republic of Lugansk, adding, “We know that this patrol team deviated from the main route and was moving along secondary roads, which is prohibited by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission mandate.”
More than 10,000 have been killed since the conflict began in eastern Ukraine over three years ago. Kiev accuses Russia of supporting the forces through provision of funds and weapons. Moscow denies any involvement buts says it respects the ethnic Russians’ right in eastern Ukraine for gaining independence from Kiev.
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