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OSCE monitors come under artillery fire at MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine

September 15, 2014, 20:33 UTC+3 VIENNA
OSCE chief monitor urged sides in Ukraine conflict to ensure monitors’ safe work
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© ITAR-TASS/Konstantin Sazonchik

VIENNA, September 15. /ITAR-TASS/. Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) came under artillery fire at the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine on September 14, their report released on Monday said.

It said “the patrol vehicles were damaged by artillery or mortar fire … the team left the area in the remaining useable vehicle and returned to Donetsk city”.

“The SMM also carried out an on-site assessment in the area of the MH17 crash site, upon request of the Dutch, Australian and Malaysian authorities. The patrol vehicles were damaged by artillery or mortar fire at 18:37. The team left the area in the remaining useable vehicle and returned to Donetsk city at 00:32 hrs today,” the report said.

In an earlier report, the OSCE said its monitors and representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) had come under a mortar attack in Donetsk, with shells exploding some 100-200 metres away.

“On 14 September, at about 15:00 hrs, the SMM was on patrol close to the Putilovka market, Kievskyi district, Donetsk city. The market appeared to have been subjected to shelling prior to the SMM’s arrival. Smoke was coming from one building and a fire brigade was at the scene,” it said.

The monitors said members of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) present at the location reported that a total of four people had been killed in the incident. About 20 metres from its position, the SMM team could see the body of a civilian woman lying on the street, the report said.

“While at the scene, the SMM team heard mortar shelling. Subsequently, four shells impacted and exploded within 20 seconds about 200 metres from the team’s position,” the report said.

The SMM monitoring team stopped at another location about 1 kilometre away from the market. About 10 minutes later another mortar shell exploded about 100 m from the SMM’s position. The SMM team immediately left the area.

The head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan on Monday urged all parties to the conflict in Ukraine to allow monitors to carry out their duties and verification of the ceasefire regime safely.

The statement followed a series of incidents which had put the OSCE monitors’ lives at risk.

“We profoundly regret the fact that our teams were substantially endangered during the course of their agreed monitoring mission. This is entirely unacceptable,” Apakan said.

On the evening of 14 September, vehicles of an SMM patrol monitoring the east of Donetsk were struck by artillery fragments. No one was injured in the incident. On Sunday, monitors came under fire at the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine.

Ertugrul Apakan said on Monday there had been a series of ceasefire breaches in eastern Ukraine and their number had increased over the past 48 hours.

“Teams operating in Donetsk and Luhansk have reported a series of breaches of these breaches, and that they have increased in the last 48 hours,” he said.

Apakan urged all sides “to abide by the ceasefire commitment as agreed in Minsk, and to allow for full monitoring of the implementation of this regime. The SMM is determined to continue its mission, as mandated by the OSCE’s 57 participating States. In this regard, activities of the SMM in the eastern region of Ukraine will continue”.

The mission said there were several points of confrontation in the Donetsk region, including the airport, several towns and the territory northeast of Mariupol.

“These confrontations have intensified over the past three days. The SMM observed movement of troops and hardware on both sides; there appear to be command and control issues on both sides,” the mission said.

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