OSCE observers, journalists under fire in E. Ukraine

OSCE observers, journalists under fire in E. Ukraine
OSCE observers have come under fire in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine and had to abort their inspection of the village of Kominternovo on Sunday, the watchdog said, adding that none of its staff had been injured in the incident. 

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine said it “confirms that an incident involving small arms fire took place, today, 27 December, at 11:20 in the vicinity of Kominternove.”

There were no injuries among the mission’s members or damage done to OSCE vehicles in the attack, it added.

According to the watchdog, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) observers had to “evacuate the area immediately” and return to their base in the city of Donetsk, held by the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

The DPR’s Deputy Head of General Staff, Eduard Basurin, and the Russian TV crew was accompanying the monitors when the shots were fired.

"Fortunately, there were no victims among the journalists and OSCE mission members. Eduard Basurin also avoided injuries,” a DPR military representative told Interfax.

The Rossiya 24 channel said none of its crew, who were filming in Kominternovo, were hurt.

"As soon as the OSCE began its inspection, we heard separate shots. The military later told us that it was sound of the sniper rifles. It was followed by machinegun fire,” Andrey Rudenko, Rossiya 24 correspondent, said on air.

“After driving around a kilometer away from the scene, we’ve heard that shells, which were presumably fired from mortars, began exploding on the very spot,” he added.

Rudenko stressed the area where the attack took place is controlled by the Right Sector ultranationalist group.

The fire came from the direction of Ukrainian military positions, according to Basurin.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights condemned the attack on the OSCE team, urging Ukrainian authorities to investigate the incident. Konstantin Dolgov called the incident just the latest “provocation” in a series of attacks by paramilitary groups such as the Right Sector, which Kiev has so far failed to investigate.

“This is another provocation on the backdrop of the stubborn unwillingness of Kiev ‘democrats’ to investigate the cynical murders of Russian journalists in Donbass,” Konstantin Dolgov said. “This is another reminder that impunity for war crimes encourages nationalist extremists in Ukraine to a new lawlessness.”

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the attack on the OSCE observers was a provocation staged by the self-defense forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

The OSCE observers are working in eastern Ukraine to monitor the implementation of the Minsk peace deal, which was signed in February between Kiev and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

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The accord has led to a sharp decrease in the fighting, which has been going on since April 2014 and took over 9,000 lives.

The agreement, which envisaged a ceasefire, prisoner exchanges and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry, led to a drastic decrease in violence in the area, but has not been fully implemented by either side.

The attack on the OSCE observers wasn’t the only incident in the Donetsk People's Republic on Sunday, with Basurin saying that two people were killed in the shelling of the village of Zaytsevo by Ukrainian forces.