Last OSCE monitors leave Ukraine
The Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) has evacuated its last international monitors, who for eight years have been watching over the conflict between Ukraine and the two breakaway republics of Donbass.
“The process of temporary evacuation of all international mission members is nearly complete. The last remaining group – the chief monitor and senior management team – will now leave Ukraine,” the OSCE said on Sunday.
The organization added that the evacuation was underway, except in Mariupol, where it was pending “due to security concerns.”
The city on the Azov Sea coast is surrounded by forces from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), backed by Russian troops. Two attempts to arrange safe passage for civilians over the weekend failed, with Ukraine and Russia blaming each other.
The OSCE reported that one of its monitors died in the shelling in Kharkov on March 1. In 2017, another mission member was killed in an explosion in eastern Ukraine.
OSCE monitors were deployed in 2014 to chronicle the conflict and later the ceasefire between Ukraine and the DPR, as well as the neighboring Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). Both republics broke away from Ukraine shortly after the coup in Kiev that year.
The Vienna-based organization began evacuating staff after Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24. Moscow insisted it was defending the DPR and LPR, as well as seeking “demilitarization and denazification” of the country. Kiev said the attack was entirely unprovoked and denied claims that it was planning to retake the breakaway republics by force.