OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Edi Rama, and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger expressed their deep concern that in recent days the armed formations have prevented the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) from crossing the contact line into non-government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine.
They called for urgent steps to ensure the safety of SMM staff and that the SMM is able to continue to operate, while taking into account the need to control the spread of COVID-19, according to an OSCE report of March 23.
Starting from 21 March, members of the armed formations at checkpoints in Donetsk and Luhansk regions denied passage to SMM patrols travelling into non-government-controlled areas.
Prime Minister Rama said: “We understand the need for strict measures being taken throughout the world in response to the impact of COVID-19, and the SMM is already doing its utmost to protect its staff and the population in Ukraine. But we are deeply concerned about the implications of this unprecedented step for SMM’s welfare, as well as the impact on the Mission’s ability to carry out its mandate. I call for full respect of the Mission’s mandated freedom of movement throughout the country, and for respect of commitments undertaken in the Minsk agreements.”
OSCE Secretary General Greminger added: “The safety and security of our staff and our duty of care to them is our top priority. It is essential to have the ability to cross the contact line and have unimpeded access to staff who are working on both sides. More than ever it is essential to ensure safe, secure and unimpeded access for the Mission throughout Ukraine.”
Rama and Greminger also noted that ceasefire violations continued at an unacceptable level and renewed their repeated calls for restraint and full respect for the ceasefire, especially in view of the needs for all sides to focus on responding to the pandemic.
The closure of crossing points divides SMM from its many mission members on the eastern side of the contact line, undermining the safety and security of staff and hampering its continuing operations.