OSCE patrol car blast ‘likely a provocation’ to undermine peace process in E. Ukraine – Moscow

OSCE patrol car blast ‘likely a provocation’ to undermine peace process in E. Ukraine – Moscow
Moscow has called the explosion of a car belonging to the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), in which a US citizen was killed and several others injured, a provocation aimed at disrupting peace efforts and reigniting the smoldering conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement, extending its condolences to the family of the US citizen killed in the blast, and wishing a speedy recovery to the injured. While the name of the person killed has not been released, the ministry said the US citizen was contracted by a medical company to work for the OSCE’s mission in Ukraine.

“The circumstances of what had happened point out to a highly likelihood of it being a provocation, aimed at derailing the conflict settlement process in Donbass,” the ministry said in its statement Sunday.

Two more people, a German citizen and a Czech citizen, were also wounded in the blast.

The only beneficiaries from “this cynical action” will be “those who are not interested in fulfilling political, economic and humanitarian provisions” of the Minsk agreements, the ministry pointed out, calling to conduct a “thorough and impartial investigation” to find and punish the perpetrators.

Reiterating the need to implement the Minsk Agreements, “a non-alternative basis for settlement in Donbass,” in full, the ministry urged to invigorate direct talks between the government in Kiev, on one hand, and self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk Republics, on the other.

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Meanwhile, US State Department’s acting spokesman, Mark Toner, has confirmed in a statement on Sunday that the killed OSCE monitor was a US national.  

“The United States is shocked and deeply saddened by the death of a US citizen serving as a paramedic with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM),” the statement read.

In a separate statement, the US State Department revealed that a phone call between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took place following the incident, during which Tillerson pledged support to Ukraine and “confirmed that sanctions [against Russia] will remain in place until Russia returns control of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine.” 

On Sunday, a OSCE’s mission patrol consisting of six people and two armored vehicles were struck by a mine near the village of Prishib on the territory controlled by breakaway Lugansk People’s Republic. The OSCE car allegedly deviated from the main route into an unchecked side road, the Luhansk rebel government’s press service said in a statement, adding that such a maneuver is prohibited by the mission’s guidelines.

As result of the blast one patrol member died on spot while two others have suffered injuries and were transported to a hospital.

In the aftermath of the incident, the blame game has immediately started with both Kiev and rebels levelling accusation at each other for being behind the explosion and Luhansk authorities saying that they had repeatedly warned international observers about possible provocations on behalf of Ukraine.