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EU denounces arson attack on observers’ vehicles in Ukraine


ukraine mapThe EU on Monday denounced an arson attack on armoured vehicles belonging to OSCE observers monitoring a fragile ceasefire in rebel-held eastern Ukraine and urged warring sides to fully respect the truce.

Observers from the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said Sunday that four of their vehicles had been destroyed at their hotel.

“The setting on fire of the OSCE SMM (Special Monitoring Mission) vehicles yesterday in Donetsk is unacceptable,” the European Union’s external action service said in a statement.

“It is of utmost importance that the sides fully observe the ceasefire, ensure safety and freedom of movement to the monitors of the OSCE SMM throughout the whole territory of Ukraine, as specified in its mandate,” it added.

“We recall that the SMM plays a crucial role in monitoring and verifying the implementation of the Minsk agreements, which is the basis for a sustainable solution of the conflict in full respect of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said.

The OSCE, which monitors enforcement of the Minsk peace deal signed in February, said four of its armoured vehicles were destroyed in an “apparent arson attack”.

It described the attack as aimed at halting its monitoring activities in the separatist region, but stressed it had no plans to leave.

It also said that separatists are responsible for ensuring the safety of the mission and its property.

The number of attacks on OSCE observers has increased in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between government troops and pro-Russian separatists has claimed more than 6,800 lives in 15 months.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said reported tank battles around the village of Novolaspa and Sunday’s attack on the OSCE vehicles were all part of the rebels’ attempt to raise tensions and erase any achievements of the February truce.

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