Ukraine monitors report coming under 'targeted' fire
KYIV - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoUkraine's truce monitors reported July 28 coming under "targeted" fire in the past few days in incidents that have forced them to review future operations in the war-torn state.
The Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) remains at the heart of global efforts to end the 15-month conflict between Western-backed Kyiv and pro-Russian insurgents that has already claimed more than 6,500 lives.
The Cold War-era peace enforcement body reports ceasefire violations and arranges periodic talks involving the warring sides and Russia aimed at salvaging an often-ignored truce signed in February with the help of the leaders of Germany and France.
But its Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) -- comprising almost 500 members who are mostly based in the separatist east -- said the number of incidents in which its teams have come under attack has grown.
"In the past days the SMM has faced three separate, targeted security incidents in certain locations in the conflict zone," deputy mission chief Alexander Hug told reporters in Kyiv.
"In response to security incidents over past days SMM is reviewing its monitoring operations in certain locations."
Hug said one of the team leaders suffered a slight head injury and was flown to Kyiv for treatment after being caught in an exchange of heavy gun and sniper fire in a town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the separatists' de facto capital Donetsk.
Monday's incident in Shyrokyne came a day after another team escaped unharmed from a similar ceasefire violation in the Donetsk region town of Shchastya.
The mission refused to say which side was to blame.
Both government soldiers and the rebels accuse the other of daily truce breaches that officials said had killed at least three people -- including two civilians -- since July 27 evening.
Rebel commander Eduard Basurin accused Kyiv on July 28 of "paralysing" the work of the Western monitors.
"We fully guarantee the safety of the SMM observers," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
But the mission itself accuses the insurgents of limiting its access to some suspected rebel bases and often blocking the passage of its teams.
Kyiv and the West accuse Russia of orchestrating and supporting the conflict in retaliation for last year's ouster in Kyiv of a Moscow-backed leadership.
Russia denies the charges and accuses the United States and its European allies of fuelling the overthrow of Moscow-friendly governments in former Soviet republics.