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OSCE monitors stayed under mortar fire near Lugansk for 90 minutes

July 27, 2015, 0:56 UTC+3

The incident took place near the Schastye populated locality. None of the SMM monitors was hurt, the OSCE said in a statement on Monday

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VIENNA, July 27 /TASS/. Monitors from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine came under fire near the Schastye populated locality on July 26 while trying to cross the contact line from the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) -controlled side of Schastye to the Kiev government-controlled side. All the monitors came out unharmed, the OSCE said in a statement published on its website on July 26.

"The SMM had arrived at 12:00hrs at the last "LPR" checkpoint (2km south of the line of contact) before the Shchastia bridge and had been told by the "LPR" to park their vehicles in cover; according to the "LPR", "LPR" members who had been removing mine obstacles to allow the SMM through had come under machine-gun and sniper fire at 11:30hrs. At approximately 12:40hrs, the checkpoint and surrounding area came under sustained mortar (assessed to be 82mm) and automatic grenade launcher fire from the north," the statement said.

"The SMM members took cover in the trenches at the "LPR" checkpoint and remained there for approximately 90 minutes. During this time, there was continuous incoming mortar shelling (30-40 rounds) and automatic grenade launcher fire that impacted near the SMM’s position (50-100m). The SMM observed at least one mortar round strike within 40m of a bus carrying civilians from Obozne ("LPR"-controlled, 18km north of Lugansk) towards Lugansk city," the OSCE went on to say.

"SMM members contacted the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination for a cessation of fire. At 14:20 the shelling ceased and the SMM considered it is sufficiently safe to leave the place shortly after. There were no injuries to SMM members or damages to SMM vehicles. All SMM members returned safely to their base in "LPR"-controlled Luhansk city around 15:00hrs," the statement said. OSCE's coordinator Toni Frisch

Earlier on July 26 (Sunday), the LuganskInformNews agency said that the OSCE delegation led by Tony Frisch, coordinator of the Contact Group’s working group for humanitarian issues, had been caught in mortar fire coming from the Ukraine government-controlled side of the town of Schastye.

Vladislav Deinego, a representative of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), said later that the SMM monitors had planned to visit a number of facilities in the Ukraine-controlled side of Schastye.

"They did what they had planned on our side and were to cross the contact line into the government-controlled part of Schastye where they were supposed to inspect a number of facilities, including the Karbonit industrial facility as well as waterways running into our direction near Popasnaya," Deinego stressed adding that the Ukrainian side could not but knew about the SMM patrol’s plans.

"The plan was discussed in Minsk as early as July 21. We were notified about the visit; the Ukrainian side was supposed to receive the same kind of notification containing the plan of movement," Deinego said.

The OSCE group led by Tony Frisch arrived in the LPR for a two-day visit on July 25 to assess the real humanitarian situation.

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