KYIV – Agence France-Presse
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE) said yesterday one of its staff was killed after an observer mission patrol vehicle hit a landmine in rebel-held east Ukraine.
It marked the first loss for the security body’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine
since Europe’s only war began more than three years ago.
“Tragic news from Ukraine: SMM patrol drove on mine. One OSCE patrol member killed,” Austrian foreign minister and the OSCE’s current chairman Sebastian Kurz wrote on Twitter.
The OSCE mission added later that “two members have been taken to hospital for further examination” but did not give details on their condition.
An official from the organization in Kyiv said they could not disclose the victims’ nationalities because their next-of-kin were still in the process of being notified.
The incident occurred close to Ukraine’s volatile frontline near the village of Pryshyb in the Russian-backed eastern rebel fiefdom of Lugansk.
“Obviously, the blast was strong enough to penetrate an armored vehicle,” the OSCE official told AFP. “All of our vehicles are armored.”
Group chairman Kurz demanded a “thorough investigation” into the incident and insisted that “those responsible will be held accountable.”
The OSCE team’s 600 members in eastern Ukraine
comprise the only independent monitoring mission in the industrial war zone. They provide daily reports on fighting and have drawn criticism from the warring sides.
Lugansk rebel police force spokesman Alexander Mazeikin told AFP that two OSCE vehicles were travelling in the rebel-run region when “one of them hit an anti-tank mine.”
A statement issued by the Lugansk separatists on their news site said the OSCE team had veered off the main road and was travelling along an unsafe route.
“We know that this patrol team deviated from the main route and was moving along secondary roads, which is prohibited,” the separatists said.
“We have repeatedly drawn the OSCE SMM’s attention to the need to follow security measures while travelling on its monitoring missions.”