July 30, 2015. Two armed incidents occurred in eastern Ukraine that targeted monitors of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), said Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
On July 26, a five-member OSCE monitoring patrol came under machine gun, mortar, and grenade fire as it attempted to cross a checkpoint along the contact line in Shchastya. Hug reported, “This happened even though movement was agreed and coordinated in advance” by both sides of the conflict. After sustaining fire for approximately 90 minutes, the OSCE team escaped uninjured. Additionally, on July 27, the OSCE’s Mariupol Hub leader, whom Hug did not specifically name, sustained injuries when an explosion occurred in Shyrokyne. The monitor is currently hospitalized in Kyiv.
Hug stated that aside from demonstrating OSCE monitors’ bravery and commitment to their mission, recent violence discounts accusations that the OSCE is not operating in violent areas. He added that the “allegations are insulting to those who risk their lives every day,” and further stated that monitors’ security is the OSCE’s highest priority. Consequently, the OSCE is responding to security challenges.
Hug added that the recent attacks “constitute deliberate, hostile interference with the work of the OSCE SMM that amounts to censorship” and reminded the public that “the SMM is an unarmed civilian monitoring mission” and was invited by Ukraine as an impartial monitor. According to the OSCE, permission to monitor in Ukraine constitutes de-facto permission by all OSCE members, including Russia.
Hug reported that checkpoint personnel “on both sides” are delaying, and denying monitors access. This problem is particularly prevalent along the Ukraine-Russia border on the Luhansk side. Specifically, the OSCE was denied access to the militant-controlled Debaltseve and to a “heavy weapons storage area” on July 27.
Despite the relative calm over the past week during which only a “handful of ceasefire violations were recorded in the Donetsk region” and fewer violations occurred in Luhansk over the past week, monitors recorded 120 explosions near the international airport area in Donetsk. Hug reiterated that all parties have agreed to withdraw heavy weapons from the contact line but that withdrawal has been “sporadic at best.” He stressed the humanitarian crisis in the east, where fighting has destroyed significant portions of civilian infrastructure including residential areas and public transportation routes.
In conclusion, Hug updated his weekly report on OSCE SMM presence in Ukraine. The mission now consists of a total of 819 mission members, 516 monitors, 64 “other international staff” and 239 Ukrainian national staff.