US blames Ukraine mission attack on Russia
Iran Press TV
Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:21PM
The United States government has condemned an attack on special monitoring missions in eastern Ukraine, calling on Russia to "immediately" observe ceasefire in the restive region.
"We condemn Friday's targeting of OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) special monitoring mission (SMM) monitors and the seizure of a SMM unmanned aerial vehicle by combined-Russian separatist forces," the US State Department said in a statement on Sunday.
"It is imperative that these forces halt their attacks on civilian infrastructure, including the Donetsk water filtration station. We call on Russia and the separatist forces it backs to immediately observe the cease-fire, withdraw all heavy weapons, and allow full and unfettered access to the OSCE monitors," the statement added.
According to a statement by OSCE, the SMM monitors were about to launch a UAV on Friday when a group of Russian-speaking men approached them and seized their drone.
The men first fired "a burst of small-arms fire" and proceeded to take the drone without paying attention to the SMM members, who identified themselves "as OSCE in Russian and English."
The monitors were "attempting to launch the UAV to monitor the reported shelling of the Donetsk water filtration station," when the encounter took place.
In a separate incident, two armed men engaged in a conversation with an SMM member before one of them pointed his AK-47 rifle into the air and "fired a round." The monitoring group left the area after the incident.
"No SMM members were hurt or vehicles damaged. The SMM informed the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination about both incidents and asked it to assist in recovery of the UAV," the statement concluded.
On February 20, a ceasefire came into force for eastern Ukraine after it was brokered in Munich. The deal also cites the withdrawal of heavy arms from the front line.
However, the OSCE head warned earlier this week that the situation remained "confused" and warned that a new wave of fighting may erupt.
The US and its allies had levied broad economic sanctions against Russia over its alleged support for pro-Russia separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
Ties between Moscow and the West further deteriorated in 2014, after the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea rejoined Russia in a referendum.
US President Donald Trump said earlier this month that Russia should "return" Crimea to Ukraine.
In response, the Kremlin called Crimea part of Russia's territory and said its return was not negotiable.
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