The observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have become an integral part of the embattled eastern Ukraine.

Since 2014, when the conflict between Russian and pro-Russian fighters on the one hand and the Ukrainian army on the other began, they have been documenting violations of the fragile ceasefire by both sides on a daily basis.

But now the mission has to experience for the first time that the offices of their unarmed observers and the vehicles of the organization are blocked and thus prevented from working.

Gerhard Gnauck

Political correspondent for Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania based in Warsaw.

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This unprecedented process began in Donetsk late last week and resulted in the mission temporarily suspending the observers in the big city "out of concern for safety".

The OSCE office in the town of Horlivka, some forty kilometers away, was also blocked.

Both cities are located in the "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), the quasi-state created by the fighters near the Russian border.

Why the pressure on the OSCE?

The reason for the apparently concerted action is an incident last Wednesday. Ukrainian government troops arrested a pro-Russian fighter on the ceasefire line and accused him of espionage. The DNR demands his release. The blockade is intended to put pressure on the OSCE. DNR media gave voice to “critical citizens” who accused the organization of “inefficient” work in eastern Ukraine. The blockade appears to be an attempt to block the work of the main international mission in Ukraine. With its mission in the country, the OSCE maintains almost 700 observers from 44 OSCE member countries, plus 600 local staff and other employees.

From Horliwka, the mission reported in its daily report, which was published online as usual, that the gate to their parking lot there “was locked with a chain and padlock” on Sunday. The initiators of the action did not hide: “A vehicle with a blue DNR license plate was parked south of the gate and blocked the exit. Two members of the armed formations were also standing next to the vehicle. ”As armed formations, the OSCE describes the units of the two“ People's Republics ”in eastern Ukraine, the DNR and the neighboring LNR with their center in Luhansk. A little later, two men in plain clothes came and told OSCE staff not to leave the premises. Photos show people with posters like: “OSCE! Stop helping murderers and sadists! "

Although the action in Horlivka has now ended, the blockade of the “Park Inn” hotel in Donetsk, where the OSCE office is located, continued on Tuesday. For days up to 150 people, mostly men, have been gathering there with banners; tents were also erected. The mission's latest daily reports show that the armed formations illegally refused passage to OSCE patrols in other parts of the region over the weekend. Radio communications from OSCE observation drones were also severely disrupted.

Meanwhile, during his visit to Kiev on Tuesday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attempted to allay fears expressed in Ukraine about US policy on Russia.

“Our support for the sovereignty of Ukraine is unshakable.” Together with the Ukrainian Defense Minister Andrij Taran, he laid a wreath at a memorial for fallen Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday.

As in Georgia before, Austin promised in Kiev that American training aid for the local army would be expanded.

An unspecified US arms shipment worth about $ 60 million had previously arrived in Ukraine.

Keywords: osce, ukraine, observers, donetsk, observer mission, offices, actions, fighter, separatists, fighters, incident, other, part, release, one