First casualties of OSCE mission in Donbas: land mine blast kills one, injures another

"Spontaneous rally" against armed OSCE mission in Luhansk on 10 October, 2016. Photo: Youtube 

More, War in the Donbas

Today, on April 23, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine reported its first casualties in the Donbas since the mission was deployed to Ukraine in 2014. One staff member had died after a patrol vehicle hit a landmine near the Russian-occupied village of Pryshyb, 30 km northwest of Luhansk. Two more members of the Mission have been reportedly taken to hospital for further medical examination, at least one of them was injured according to later reports.

Location of the incident on the map:

Pryshyb village on the occupied territory in Luhansk Oblast. Map: LiveUAMap

Pryshyb village on the occupied territory in Luhansk Oblast. Map: LiveUAMap

Foreign Minister of Austria and current chairman of the OSCE Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter, “Tragic news from Ukraine: SMM patrol drove on mine. One OSCE patrol member killed,” and added, “Need thorough investigation; those responsible will be held accountable.”

Ukraine’s part to the Joint Coordination and Control Centre (JCCC) said that the incident took place at 10:17 EET (07:17 GMT) near the village of Pryshyb controlled by the Russian-hybrid forces, “there were fatalities and wounded” among the SMM monitors.

A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official has confirmed the fatality to RFE/RL and said that the person killed in the blast was an American paramedic.

Member of Parliament Anton Herashchenko stated it was British citizen Joseph Stone who died in landmine blast, however Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug refuted the information, he said an American citizen was killed, two more members of OSCE patrol, Czech and German citizens, were taken to hospital.

A representative of so-called “Luhansk police force” told AFP that two OSCE vehicles were traveling in the Russian-controlled region when “one of them hit an anti-tank mine,” the occupation authorities accused the monitors of veering off the main road and traveling along an unsafe route not agreed with Russian and Ukrainian representatives.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concern about the killing. “Someone who just wanted to help create peace and put an end to the fighting has lost his life today,” Gabriel said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko instructed Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin to keep the OSCE informed of Kiev’s investigation into the blast. “This crime must be investigated and the guilty punished without fail,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook.

The spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted:

The Canadian ambassador to Ukraine wrote:


Update 20:40:

OSCE briefs on incident

Video of a news briefing held by Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug today in Kyiv at 20:00:

Mr. Hug confirmed that one OSCE patrol member was killed this morning, two more were taken to hospital.

The OSCE has published its statement later today. The statement reads:

LUHANSK, 23 April 2017 – A paramedic who was part of a patrol of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) died and two SMM monitors were taken to hospital today after their vehicle was heavily damaged by an explosion near Pryshyb in the non-government controlled Luhansk region. Austrian Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Sebastian Kurz and OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier both extend their most heartfelt condolences to the family and relatives of the individual who died as well as to the SMM team as a whole. They also express solidarity with the monitors who were injured and wish them a speedy recovery.


Update 21:40:

MFA: The incident is a confirmation of Moscow’s and its puppets’ attempts to intimidate the OSCE

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has published a comment in connection with the death and injury of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observers in Ukraine. The Ministry considers the incident “a confirmation of Moscow’s and its puppets’ attempts to intimidate the OSCE and nullify the efforts of Ukraine and the SMM to stabilize the situation on the contact line.

“We call on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements, to take all urgent measures in order to immediately stop provocations against OSCE observers, and to ensure full security of the SMM and its unhindered access to all occupied territory, including to the temporarily uncontrolled sections of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Ukraine will do everything possible to ensure an immediate, full and impartial investigation of the crime in order to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the comment reads.


 

  • The unarmed civilian OSCE mission with about 700 international observers was deployed in 2014.
  • The Mission seeks to reduce tensions and report on the situation on the ground in Ukraine.  The role of the monitors includes verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons as agreed under so-called Minsk-2, the 2015 ceasefire agreement.
  • Ukraine’s defense ministry said Thursday that the mine-contaminated area is now estimated at 700,000 hectares, it will take between 10 and 15 years to clear it from the unexploded ordnance, only 3,000 of the 700,000 hectares had been cleared of the various types of landmines. 
  • Russia’s invasion of Eastern Ukraine has cost about 10,000 lives and internally displaced 1.5 million people.

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