The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said on Friday that the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine surrounded one of its teams near Donetsk – a city under rebel control – opening fire and seizing a drone they were trying to launch.
OSCE has an observer mission in war-torn Eastern Ukraine where government forces fight with pro-Russian rebels. The conflict in Ukraine had erupted in 2014. after the overthrow of pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovych. A ceasefire between the rebels and authorities in Kiev was reached in Minsk two years ago, and, although it ended large-scale fighting, sporadic clashes have continued along the front-line.
In recent weeks, an upsurge in violence prompted Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine to agree to a new ceasefire.
The US State Department condemned the incident where pro-Russian rebels threatened OSCE monitors and called on Russia and the separatists to observe a fragile six-day-old ceasefire.
We condemn Friday’s targeting of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) monitors and the seizure of a SMM unmanned aerial vehicle by combined-Russian separatist forces.
We call on Russia and the separatist forces it backs to immediately observe the ceasefire, withdraw all heavy weapons, and allow full and unfettered access to the OSCE monitors.
The government in Kiev, US and other Western countries accuse Russia of supporting the rebels in Eastern Ukraine, something that the Kremlin vehemently denies.
Both the regime in Kiev and the rebels claim that the other side is responsible for violating the Minsk II agreement. The rebels continue to control a significant portion of territory in Eastern Ukraine, in the important industrious Donbass area.
It is estimated that nearly 10,000 have died since the conflict began in 2014.
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