The Ukraine conflict has so far left more than 10 000 people dead and three million displaced, mostly in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. To try to stop the violence, end the bloodshed, the ‘Minsk II’ Agreement of February 2015 sought to establish a ceasefire and ‘Line of Contact’ separating government and non-government controlled forces.
The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is responsible for monitoring compliance with the conditions set out in the Agreement.
This is achieved through the verification of movements and recording of ceasefire breaches, and by providing an accurate picture of the security situation. The Mission also supports the removal of mines and unexploded ordinance, allowing relief and recovery work to take place.
In 2016, there were over 700 monitors in Ukraine focusing on gathering information on the security situation and reporting on key events. managed to prevent more violence, build confidence across the dividing line and ultimately help to secure the conditions needed to end the war.
Strong surveillance and good communication are a critical part of this work. Bulletins are based on patrols, which is difficult and dangerous work. Monitors often have to negotiate access – if it is granted at all – to areas not controlled by the government, such as border crossings with Russia. The monitors are busy: during the most active periods there can be more than 60 missions a day.
This is why the EU’s IcSP covers staff and operational costs for monitors and provides access to satellite imagery, static cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles, which enable the Mission to monitor remote areas. This collection of data helps the Mission to produce daily, weekly and thematic bulletins on events along the front line, ensuring that the international community has access to independent and up-to-date information.
“Monitoring the ceasefire and limiting violence are key steps to delivering peace in Donbass,” says Helga Pender, who manages the IcSP’s overall support to the SMM. “The IcSP has been supporting the SMM from the start, and will continue to play an active part in ensuring that the mission is able to optimise the execution of its tasks.” EU backing amounts to € 25 000 000 in direct support to SMM, with an additional € 5 000 000 for the provision of satellite imagery.
Another key goal of the SMM is to further develop relationships with local communities, enabling them to provide more effective support. “Though we are not a humanitarian mission, our observations help to identify places where people are most in need, and to refer this information to the relevant organisations,” says SMM’s Principal Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug. “We talk with civilians on a daily basis, paying particular attention to those suffering most.”