American Medic Killed, Two European Members Injured as OSCE Special Monitoring Mission Vehicle Runs Over Land Mine in Eastern Ukraine

April 23, 2017
Remnants of the OSCE vehicle in which 3 Special Monitoring Mission members were traveling in Lugansk when they ran over a land mine. Photo via George Tuka

Ukraine Day 1161: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. An American medic was killed and two other members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, a German and a Czech were injured when their vehicle ran over a land mine.

Yesterday’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.


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American Medic in OSCE Monitoring Mission Killed, Two Members Injured in Mine Explosion in Lugansk Region

Photo of an OSCE vehicle that ran over a mine in Lugansk Region. Via George Tuka 

A member of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was killed and two members injured after their vehicle ran over a land mind, OSCE and international media reported.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry told RFE/RL that the person killed was an American medic, and one of those injured was a German woman. Alexander Hug, principle deputy chief monitor, told reporters the second person injured is a Czech. Names have been withheld pending notification of relatives. .

OSCE SMM confirmed the casualties.

On its web page, OSCE said the observers were traveling in the town of Pryshyb in Lugansk Region which is under control of Russia-backed separatists, when they ran over a mine. OSCE is asking for cooperation of all parties in its investigation.

Kurz is the foreign minister of Austria, which currently holds the rotating chair of the 57-member organization.

He was also quoted as saying in an OSCE press statement:

“SMM is doing an outstanding job, day by day, to stabilize the crisis in and around Ukraine. But the mission is too often hampered by threats, by access restrictions, by disinformation or the destruction of its technical means. This is simply unacceptable.”

Translation: Explosion of OSCE auto: The Cabinet of Ministers warned of the “worst scenario” for Ukraine. 

OSCE SMM, an unarmed mission of 700 people from all the OSCE member nations including Russia, has suffered a number of attacks in separatist-held territory by unknown fighters with small arms or machine guns, and its observation drones have been shot down by militants as well. It has frequently encountered obstruction or refusal to allow observers to look at certain areas.

George Tuka,  deputy governor for the temporarily-occupied territories and displaced persons in the Ukrainian government, wrote on his Facebook page [translation by The Interpreter]:

It is hard to recognize in this pile of metal the armored Cruiser in which the officers of the mission travelled.

Of course, the ringleaders of ORDL [The Ukrainian acronymn for certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk] will speak of “Ukrainian saboteurs” and “the cunning Kiev junta”. What else can they do?

It is worth recalling that throughout the recent period (after the reduction of a number of ‘neutral’ Russians in the composition of the mission), tentions in the ORDL and around the OSCE SMM had constantly grown: refusal of access to facilities, shelling of observer drones, provocative threats against the members and shooting with firearms — all of this took place constantly. The observers themselves repeatedly reported on this in their official reports!

And now, unfortunately, a death…

Judging from the photographs, the automobile ran into a TM-62 anti-tank mine. I hope this tragedy will not lead to the end of the OSCE SMM’s activity!

The OSCE SMM Ukraine is one of the few missions to have been deployed in a war zone in the history of the former Soviet area of the OSCE region; earlier missions were located in Tajikistan during the civil war in the 1990s and in Ingushetia, near Chechnya during the wars there in the 1990s, but was forced to leave by the Russian government. 

To our knowledge, this is the first time an OSCE mission member has been killed in this region. A member of the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed by a shell in Donetsk in 2014.  In 1998, four members of the UN Mission of Observation in Tajikistan were murdered.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Note: The Interpreter has lost its funding!

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