Kyiv, December 17, 2014. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) continues to observe the evolving security situation in Ukraine, particularly in the regions of eastern Ukraine that have been subject to military conflict. More than 300 OSCE monitors, in addition to unmanned aerial vehicles, monitor the security and humanitarian situation in 10 locations throughout the country. Two-thirds of monitors are based in southeastern Ukraine. This was stated at Ukraine Crisis Media Center by Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesperson of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine.
Recently, the OSCE mission has observed the process of collecting fragments of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which crashed in Ukraine’s Donetsk oblast on July 17. According to Bociurkiw, there is easier access to the site than previously, which is under the control of pro-Russian militants of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). In addition, the monitoring mission has observed the standoff at Donetsk airport, which has been subject to fierce fighting for the past several months between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian forces. At the airport, OSCE monitored the rotation of Ukrainian military personnel. OSCE monitors who attempted to gain access to the coastal city of Novoazovsk, which is under the control of pro-Russian militants, were denied access to the site by DPR representatives at a checkpoint.
The OSCE plans to expand its mission from 338 to 500 monitors by mid-January. At the moment, the SMM is awaiting the delivery of more armored vehicles, which are required for the transportation of OSCE staff in the combat zone. In addition, the OSCE mission in Ukraine is in the possession of four UAVs which are used to efficiently monitor sites in eastern Ukraine. “The UAVs are regarded as part of our team of monitors,” stated Bociurkiw. As has been stated in previous press conferences, both civilian monitors and the UAVs have made interesting observations in eastern Ukraine. “We [previously] remarked on the movement of unmarked convoys from the east to Donetsk city, and in many cases they’ve been hauling heavy artillery,” said Bociurkiw. In addition, the organization’s UAVs have been subject to sophisticated military-grade electronic jamming. The OSCE SMM hopes that the targeted increase in monitors will allow the mission to better observe the situation in eastern Ukraine, especially along the Russia-Ukraine border.
Bociurkiw reported that the SMM was increasingly worried about the humanitarian welfare of civilians in southeastern Ukraine. “In a lot of villages there is no electricity and no heating,” he said. The international community and media are slowly coming around to paying more attention to the plight of civilians in afflicted areas of Ukraine. “People are starting to raise more alarm bells about the vulnerable population in these different areas,” said Bociurkiw.