OSCE mission resumes operations in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine ​after protesters blockade hotel

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Europe’s security monitoring mission, said Tuesday it has resumed operations in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine after protesters blocked the entrance to their hotel.

On Sunday, groups of armed men prevented members of its mission from exiting the hotel in the separatist-controlled city of Horlivka, reportedly demanding that the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) secure the release of one of their members held by Ukrainian governmental forces.

The Forward Patrol Base in Horlivka is an OSCE/SMM Office, enjoying immunities and privileges. Restriction of access to and from the Office should be considered a violation of such immunities and privileges as well as the commitments of those in control.

OSCE SMM Spot Report 20/2021

Reuters reported Monday that protesters had left the Horlivka hotel after negotiations with the OSCE mission. The news agency identified the captured separatist fighter as officer Andrei Kosyak, who was detained near the front line last Wednesday.

Ukraine says Kosyak was a Russian citizen carrying out an undercover reconnaissance mission for the separatists, but the pro-Moscow separatists say he was helping to oversee the ceasefire mediated by France and Germany, according to Reuters.

The OSCE/SMM said in a later statement that it was able to conduct a patrol of the conflict zone on Monday afternoon after a padlock and chain had been removed from the hotel gates.

Its monitors were still prevented from observing the conflict at two checkpoints in the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the OSCE/SMM said Tuesday.

The OSCE established and has expanded the eastern Ukraine monitoring mission since the deadly conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists broke out in March 2014.

Earlier in October, Russian, French and German leaders agreed to work toward arranging a face-to-face meeting of leaders to discuss the conflict.

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