11:01 Oct. 28, 2016
Russia continues to cloak its actions from international community. OSCE SMM continues to document evidence that Russia is sending troops and equipment into Ukraine
The United States is deeply concerned about the recent escalation in fighting in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. mission to the OSCE said in a statement issued on October 27.
The mission underscores that while artillery use doubled, Ukrainian forces reported coming under heavy fire from Grad rockets, and ceasefire violations have increased nine-fold since fighting surged around Mariupol, the combined Russian-separatist forces continue to deny access to OSCE monitors.
In over 19 separate incidents during the past week, the SMM confirmed that combined Russian-separatist forces restricted monitors' movements in and around Mariupol.
As a result, monitors were blocked from accessing a potential hub for Russian resupply of troops and equipment 50 kilometers northeast of Mariupol.
Despite combined-separatist forces' restrictions, the SMM continues to document evidence that Russia is sending troops and equipment into Ukraine.
On October 17, the SMM spotted a minivan with military license plates carrying personnel in camouflage as it crossed from Russia into separatist-held Ukraine. The minivan did not transit the border at an official crossing point, as would have been the case if it had been carrying a routine rotation of Russian officers to the Joint Center for Coordination and Control. Also last week, monitors spotted a bus with at least 20 persons in camouflage crossing from separatist-held parts of Ukraine back into Russia. Taken together with the ramp up in access restrictions, this evidence is indicative of Russia's continued and active support of combined separatist forces in Ukraine.
All along Ukraine's internationally-recognized border, Russia continues its subterfuge to cloak its activities from the international community.
Just last week, Russia again rejected proposals to expand the SMM area of operations to cover all nine border crossings from Russia into separatist-held areas in Ukraine. Russia and the separatists it backs also refuse to grant the SMM the security guarantees it needs to open patrol hubs and forward patrol bases near the border.
As a result, the SMM is operationally limited to monitoring one or two border crossings for one or two hours a day. Russia can and does easily move weapons, fuel, and ammunition across the border, under the cover of darkness, and in the absence of OSCE observers.
The US mission to the OSCE also reminded that the sides have disengaged at only two of the three disengagement sites. Combined Russian-separatist forces are refusing to implement a seven-day ceasefire at the third, Stanytsia Luhanska that is why disengagement cannot begin.
The recent escalation in violence also puts at risk efforts to disengage at four additional sites, as agreed last week by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France.
Full text of the statement is available here