VIENNA, December 22. /TASS/. The Kiev government used the withdrawal of Russian officers monitoring the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as a pretext to intensify its shelling of the rebel territories, Russia’s permanent envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Thursday.
All Russian military officers, taking part in the Joint Coordination and Control Committee (JSCC) to oversee the observance of ceasefire in Ukraine, left the country on December 19 and returned to Russia.
"Regretfully, the withdrawal of Russian JCCC officers from Ukraine was used by the Ukrainian side as a pretext to further intensify shelling," Alexander Lukashevich said at a session of the OSCE Permanent Council.
Lukashevich thanked observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), who monitored the withdrawal of Russian officers. "This was a very important measure to prevent provocations," he said.
The diplomat said that Russian officers had been invited to Ukraine by Kiev, and made an important contribution into efforts to stabilize the volatile region.
"However, it appears that the Ukrainian authorities are not interested in this anymore, because they created conditions making further work impossible. The hindrances that were created for Russian members of the JCCC at the government-controlled territory were a lot more serious than those that the OSCE observers have been facing," the Russian envoy said.
He said that Moscow has repeatedly tried to draw the attention of the OSCE Permanent Council and the Vienna meeting of OSCE foreign ministers to the problem. "But they did not hear. Or they just did not want to listen," he said.
In a recent telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, in particular, that "the Ukrainian authorities had been for a long time complicating conditions for the stay of our military and performance of their duties through different restrictions and provocations". "There was no reaction to our repeated suggestions to settle the inadmissible situation at hand," he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry explained earlier that "Kiev was adamantly opposed to any documents regulating the JCCC's work." "Attempts to tackle the issue at the bilateral level, at the Minsk Contact Group or in the Normandy format were not successful," the ministry said.
Moreover, Ukraine, in violation of the agreements reached by the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on the JCCC, deliberately created a strained moral and psychological atmosphere for the Russian military servicemen that formed part of it, caused difficulties for performing their professional duties. In particular, it restricted the Russian officers’ access to the line of engagement, inspections at the joint observation posts deployed to the areas controlled by Ukraine.