A group of observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the region’s main security watchdog, has been barred from a hotel in the eastern part of the country. Of Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists demanding the release of an officer detained by Kiev forces.
The OSCE announced late Sunday night that it had suspended its SMM-based monitoring mission (SMM). Donetsk after the demonstrations over the weekend by about 200 pro-Russian separatists on the subject of the arrested officer.
The SMM was deployed in eastern Ukraine in 2014 to facilitate dialogue between Kiev forces and separatists amid a conflict that Ukraine says has so far killed about 14,000 people.
In a statement, SMM said the gates of its patrol base in the rebel-held town of Horlivka were closed with a chain and a padlock.
“The owner of the… hotel informed the SMM staff that the mission will not be able to leave the area, citing” orders “from the” Mayor “of Horlivka,” the statement said.
According to the same announcement, two men informed the SMM staff that they would not be allowed to leave the hotel until the arrested officer was released.
The rebels, according to the Athens News Agency, say that the officer, Andrei Kosiak, was arrested by the Ukrainian army near the front line last Wednesday while helping to monitor the ceasefire.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Kosyak was a Russian citizen and belonged to a group of Russian men in the armed forces who were conducting a secret reconnaissance mission.
SMM said it was ready to facilitate dialogue between the two sides, but that it had nothing to do with the process of securing the officer’s release.
She said her patrols in the rebel-held areas of Luhansk Oblast were continuing normally.
The separatists were not immediately available for comment on the situation.
THE conflict began in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, following mass street demonstrations that ousted ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Kremlin.
Clashes then broke out in eastern Ukraine between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists. Moscow rejects Kiev’s accusations that it has incited the conflict and that it has forces in eastern Ukraine.