VIENNA - Four observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that went missing on Monday near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk are nationals of Estonia, Turkey, Switzerland and Denmark, Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for Ukraine’s mission in Ukraine, said on may 27.
Bociurkiw told ITAR-TASS that it is still impossible to establish contact with the monitors.
The OSCE special observer mission in Ukraine said Tuesday it has lost contact with its team working in the Donetsk Region. According to an OSCE news release, the organization was last in touch with the group of four monitors at 18.00 local time on Monday, when the group was involved in planned patrols of Donetsk's eastern part.
The OSCE said it is continuing efforts to establish contact with the group, adding that the Ukrainian government and regional authorities have been informed.
Earlier on may 27, Russia’s permanent representative to the OSCE Andrey Kelin said there are no Russians among members of the missing group. Kelin also said that according to available information, the incident occurred at a security checkpoint when the group was returning from the city of Lugansk to Donetsk. He said the observers could be in one of the nearby inhabited localities.
Earlier, representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told an ITAR-TASS correspondent that they had not hindered the activity of the OSCE monitors. “We did not hinder their activity and have nothing to do with that. We don’t know what happened,” the DPR said.
A coup occurred in Ukraine in February and the country has been in turmoil since then. New people were brought to power amid riots as President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave the country the same month citing security concerns. Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern territories after the secession of the Crimean Peninsula, which declared independence on March 11 and joined Russia on March 18 following a referendum.
Demonstrators in southeastern regions, who have been demanding the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings. Kiev has been conducting what it has dubbed “an antiterrorism operation” against pro-federalization activists. Russia, which does not recognize the new Kiev authorities, has said the operation is punitive.
The eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.
Ukraine held a presidential election set by the coup-imposed authorities on Sunday, May 25. Billionaire businessman and politician Pyotr Poroshenko won the election with more than 54% of the vote, with over 94% of election protocols processed, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission reported Tuesday.
Denis Pushilin, the chairman of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Supreme Council presidium, told Itar-Tass that more than 50 militiamen and 20-50 civilians have died since Ukrainian law enforcers launched the active phase of their military operation in Donetsk on Monday. Donetsk Mayor Alexander Lukyanchenko confirmed the death of at least 40 people in clashes near the city airport. Ukrainian parliament-appointed interior minister Arsen Avakov confirmed that “dozens” died as a result of Kiev’s operation in Donetsk.
Clashes near the Sergey Prokofyev International Airport in Donetsk started on Monday morning. Ukraine’s law enforcers used attack aircraft, including fighters and combat helicopters. Fighting in the area was ongoing all day and throughout the night. The situation in the city is currently calm, the DPR said Tuesday.