OSCE: No Russian violations on Ukrainian border
During his press conference, Picard was asked to comment on Western claims that Russia is shelling Ukrainian territory and has starting deployment troops to the country.
“In these two border crossings we haven’t seen such happenings,” he replied.
The observers were assessing two checkpoints – Gukovo and Donetsk – on the border with Ukraine’s Lugansk Region, which are separated from each other by around 30km.
Gukovo checkpoint is currently closed from the Ukrainian side, but traffic at the Donetsk border crossing is “high,” Picard stressed.
“About 80 percent of traffic comes from Ukraine to Russia. We heard from people that there’s a queue of hundreds of car and a kilometer of people standing in line to the checkpoint,” he said.
According to Picard, the people - who are trying to cross the Russian border from Ukraine - have their children and huge bags with them, and don’t look remotely like tourists.
The observer also confirmed that several Ukrainian shells have landed on the Russian territory during the last week.
“Three was fighting on Ukrainian side south of [Gukovo] border crossing point and… two shells fell on the territory of the border crossing and two fell in the field,” he said.
Picard thanked the Russian border guards for “providing required security measures” for the OSCE mission.
He said there are currently eight OSCE employees working at Gukovo and Donetsk, but the arrival of the rest of the group is expected on Friday.
In all, there’ll be 15 observers, a head observer and three administrative staff, which will allow the mission “to work 24/7,” Picard said.
Picard also spoke about the group of over 400 Ukrainian soldiers who crossed the Russian border to escape the fighting on Monday.
He stressed OSCE’s active involvement in the transfer of the Kiev troops as the organization remained in contact with Ukrainian soldiers, while they were still surrounded by the self-defense forces.
Most of the soldiers have returned or are in process of returning to Ukraine at the moment, the mission head said.
“Fifty-four of them remain on site [in Russia], but we hope they’ll be back [in Ukraine] as soon as possible,” he added.
However, a weekly report by the OSCE mission has revealed that the soldiers’ return home did not go smoothly.
The transit of the troops had to be temporally halted on Tuesday after a group of servicemen came under attack.
According to the report, four soldiers were wounded as a result of the incident, which happened on Ukrainian territory.
The OSCE mission is deployed to the Gukovo and Donetsk Russian checkpoints on the border with Ukraine after a decision by the body’s Permanent Council on July 24.
The mission’s mandate will run for three months, with any extension to require another ruling by the Permanent Council of 57 OSCE member states.