Separatists end blockade of hotel accommodation conflict monitors in eastern Ukraine
- The blockade followed the capture of the officer
- Protesters dismantle tents and unlock door
- Monitors have been deployed since 2014
HORLIVKA, Ukraine / KYIV, October 18 (Reuters) – Russian-backed separatists on Monday ended a blockade of a hotel housing international observers of the conflicts in eastern Ukraine, an incident sparked by the capture of ‘an officer by the Ukrainian armed forces last week.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Sunday that its observers were unable to leave their patrol base at a hotel in the separatist-controlled town of Horlivka as separatists demanded the release of the officer.
The OSCE, Europe’s main security watchdog, said vehicles’ entrance to the base had been locked with a chain and padlock and that they had seen tents pitched outside the base. ‘hotel.
This was one of many incidents reported by the OSCE regarding the failure of its observers to carry out their work since the capture of the officer.
On Monday afternoon, a Reuters reporter saw several protesters who had stood outside the hotel in Horlivka leave after what they said were talks with OSCE observers.
“We agreed today that the demonstrators unlock the building and give OSCE members a chance to continue in office,” said one of the negotiators, Natalya Kruzhilina.
Protesters opened the gate to a parking lot where two OSCE cars were parked and dismantled their tents.
However, the OSCE Special Observation Mission to Ukraine (SMM) said in an emailed statement that its observers were still unable to deploy from their hotel in Donetsk city.
The OSCE had suspended its team’s monitoring mission in Donetsk after protesters gathered and pitched tents over the issue of the captured officer. Read more
“Following a demonstration in front of the hotel where the members of the mission live in the city of Donetsk, and in accordance with its safety and security procedures, the SMM does not deploy patrols of the Donetsk team and from its hub in the same city, ”he added. noted.
“Patrols from the other MMS locations are continuing normally. We call on the parties to remove all obstacles to the freedom of movement of the MMS.”
The SMM has been deployed to eastern Ukraine since 2014 with the aim of organizing a dialogue between Kiev forces and separatists amid a conflict which Ukraine says has so far been around 14,000 dead.
The Ukrainian government had described OSCE observers as “hostages” and, in a statement, called on the international community to investigate what it called a new attempt to undermine the ability of the mission to function. observation.
“The detention of international observers by armed individuals is a sign of international terrorism,” the Ukrainian delegation to the peace talks said.
Russia-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Foreign Minister Natalya Nikonorova said the OSCE mission in Donetsk was safe and her observers had not yet asked to leave the building.
People outside the hotel were unarmed, Nikonorova said. “There are no acts of violence … People express their resentment and, besides, we understand them.”
Separatists say the officer, Andrei Kosyak, was captured by the Ukrainian military near the front line last Wednesday while helping oversee the ceasefire.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Kosyak was a Russian citizen and belonged to a group of Russian servicemen who had carried out a secret reconnaissance mission.
On Sunday, the SMM also said that three of its patrol vehicles had been prevented from going from the government to separatist-controlled areas until Kosyak was released.
The conflict dates back to 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine after massive street protests toppled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of the Kremlin.
Fighting then erupted in eastern Ukraine between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists. Moscow rejects accusations by Kiev that it has deliberately instigated conflict and has forces in eastern Ukraine.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Margaryta Chornokondratenko in Kiev, Alexander Ermochenko in Horlivka and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Editing by Gareth Jones, Matthias Williams, William Maclean
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.