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OSCE mission warn of violence escalation risk in Donbas
09:45, 1 March 2017
OSCE mission warn of violence escalation risk in Donbas

Deputy head of the OSCE SMM Alexander Hug is sure that sides of the conflict use ceasefire regime for forces rotation, delivery of ammunition and strengthening their positions

09:45, 1 March 2017

OSCE

A new attempt to enforce the two-year-old Minsk ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was announced at the Munich Security Conference - but along the contact line between Ukrainian troops and the Russian-backed separatists, the only change between the "start date" of February 20 and the day before was an increased number of violations. This was reported by DW.

A few days later, one of the unarmed civilian teams from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) there to monitor implementation of the accord was fired at and had one of their observation drones stolen by "Russian-speaking" soldiers. That same day, OSCE monitors spread out along the line of contact reported almost 3,000 ceasefire violations - an incredibly high number but nowhere near that of 31 January, which saw some 11,000 violations within just 24 hours.

In short,the Minsk ceasefire exists in name only, with endless iterations of "recommitments" to the deal rendered meaningless by the incessant shelling.

Related: Russia may use Savchenko to oust OSCE from negotiations with militants

The deputy head of the OSCE monitoring mission, Alexander Hug, expressed exasperation with statements recycling the accord while it's being disrespected daily on the ground, as his teams diligently record. "It's very confusing to have a 'ceasefire' within a 'ceasefire' next to a 'ceasefire' above a 'ceasefire' under a 'ceasefire' around a 'ceasefire'," he said in Brussels, in between meetings with officials from NATO and the European Union.

Extremely dire humanitarian conditions are worsening, officials say, adding that some villages having been deprived of winter heating for three years now, with children terrified to go to school due to constant shelling. "The population of eastern Ukraine doesn't understand any longer why this thing doesn't end despite these commitments of leaders," Hug says.

The French and German governments joined the Russian and Ukrainian leaders in reviving the Minsk plan in February 2015. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this month in Munich that she's still "ready to devote a lot of time and energy to this, and to keep working at it even in the face of disappointments.”

Europe takes its eye off the Donbas.

Related: Donetsk Filtration Plant damaged allegedly from mortar fire, — OSCE

But Nick Witney of the European Council on Foreign Relations suggests Merkel and her French counterpart Francois Hollande may be too distracted by election campaigns and domestic challenges to put the necessary time into Ukraine.

"In some ways it's right and inevitable that Europe is taking care of their own business for the next months," Witney said.

"2017 is a year of existential threat for the EU and it has to deal with that first - Putin knows this,"  she noted.

Earlier it was reported that OSCE observers should be provided with equipment to monitor at night, according to Kurz. OSCE Chairperson-in-Office also noted that the organization is going to strengthen monitoring mission in Ukraine.

Related: Militants started shooting in presence of OSCE SMM observers

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