OSCE monitor killed in separatist-held eastern Ukraine

Mission suffers first fatality when armoured SUV hits landmine

Observers of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) inspect a private building which reportedly was destroyed after a shelling of Avdiivka, Ukraine, last February. On Sunday, a member of the OSCE was killed near Luhansk. Photograph: EPA/Valeri Kvit

Observers of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) inspect a private building which reportedly was destroyed after a shelling of Avdiivka, Ukraine, last February. On Sunday, a member of the OSCE was killed near Luhansk. Photograph: EPA/Valeri Kvit

 

A member of an international monitoring mission in Ukraine was killed on Sunday when the car in which he was travelling hit a landmine in territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

It was the first fatal incident to strike the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission during three years of work in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed about 10,000 people and displaced 1.5 million. Early reports said the victim was a paramedic from either the United States or Britain.

At least one German monitor was also hurt in the blast close to the frontline between Ukrainian troops and militia backed by Moscow, where the 700-strong unarmed OSCE mission is checking adherence to a barely functioning peace plan.

The monitors, who travel in armoured SUVs, report daily about shelling, tank and mortar fire and the presence close to the frontline of heavy armour that was supposed to be withdrawn under the so-called Minsk agreement.

They are also frequently prevented from reaching sensitive locations in the conflict zone and occasionally have to leave areas due to direct threats of violence, with the vast majority of such cases taking place in militia-held areas.

“This crime must be investigated and the guilty punished,” said Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

“Ukraine condemns all the ways in which the militants constantly obstruct the work of the OSCE (mission). Its safety and freedom of action must be guaranteed.”

Ukrainian authorities have no access to separatist-held territory, so it is unclear what kind of investigation will take place.

“This tragedy could have been avoided if members of the mission had agreed their routes with our security structures,” said Igor Plotnitsky, leader of militants in the Luhansk region, where the explosion took place.

Other senior separatists — who are propped up financially and militarily by Russia — accused Ukraine of being behind the blast.