Suspension of the OSCE SMM in Donetsk: the legal assessment of the situation

Photo Ukrinform

The work of the international observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in some separate districts of the Donetsk region (the “ORDO”) has been suspended. They were simply blocked at the locations.

The mission in the occupied Donetsk cannot go inspect the positions due to the protests, which were staged by supporters of the so-called “DPR” on October 15-16 at the entrance to the hotel where the OSCE office is located. And in Gorlivka on October 17 the gates of the patrol base of observers were blocked – they were closed by means of a chain and a padlock. A car with a “DPR” sign and at least two armed men were on duty nearby.

The OSCE SMM report states that the observers were given an ultimatum – their movements will be blocked until a member of the illegal armed group “LPR”, citizen of the Russian Federation Andrei Kosyak is released. The latter was detained by Ukrainian servicemen on October 13 within a redeployment site in the area of Zolote town.

For security reasons, the OSCE SMM has suspended operations in Donetsk, while continuing to operate in the occupied Luhansk region.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called the blocking of the OSCE observation mission an attempt to inflame the armed conflict and destroy the Minsk agreements.

“The actions of the Russian Federation to obstruct the activities of the OSCE mission in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine are inadmissible. The blocking and pressure on OSCE SMM observers in Donetsk is part of Russia’s ongoing efforts to destroy the Minsk agreements and inflame the armed conflict. We call on Russia to strictly fulfill its obligations: stop provocations against international observers of the OSCE mission, unblock their movement, ensure unimpeded access to the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and guarantee their security” – said Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Oleh Nikolenko.

Tetiana Ivanova, lawyer and a representative of certain districts of the Donetsk region (the “ORDO”) from Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group, talks in more detail about the situation in the UA “Ukraine in fact” program.

Denys Pokhyla hosts the program.

– In your opinion, what are the motives of the Russian Federation? Because we should not, I think, separate the actions of the so-called “DPR” and their curators from the Kremlin.

– The Russian Federation, as always, has the same motives. The Russian Federation is showing the world that its imperial ambitions must be taken into account, as it has done before. And if the Russian Federation is not satisfied with something, it acts with methods that are aggressive, that are illegal, and to the point that they violate the rules of international law and any humanitarian norms.

– If to go back three years – in 2018, members of the so-called “DPR” were trained to protest against the peacekeeping mission. At the time, there was talk of a possible introduction of peacekeepers into the occupied territories. And now what is the Kremlin afraid of?

– I doubt that the Kremlin is afraid of anything now. The Kremlin is demonstrating that “I want it that way, and I need to be taken into account”. “We want to release the detained armed man Kosyak, so we will take any measures, even if these measures are illegal”. Therefore, I do not see that the Russian Federation is afraid of anything. On the contrary, it demonstrates its strength, demonstrates it aggressively and believes that it can scare someone.

– The story of Andrei Kosyak, who was detained on October 13, who is said to be a representative in the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the Ceasefire Regime (SCCC) from the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic”. Although there can be no representatives from “LPR” in SCCC in fact, as “LPR” is illegal. Moreover, the SCCC, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the OSCE mission.

– There is a lot of absurdity here. First, this person [Kosyak] is called a representative of the SCCC from the “LPR”, that is, of a structure that does not exist in nature. Secondly, he has a Russian passport, and he has nothing to do with the so-called “LPR”, it turns out – he is a Russian citizen. And third, representatives of such missions, including the SCCC, cannot be armed. And this man was armed.

– There is information that in Gorlivka on October 18 the situation has more or less stabilized. Maybe you have more information about Gorlivka? What happened there? Why did they suddenly decide to “go to the world”, so to speak?

– I have no information why did they decided to “go to the world”. I think negotiations are going on there, a lot of organizations have joined, and the countries are negotiating. But I do not have the results of any negotiations.

And if we talk about why it all happened. In my opinion, it could not be otherwise. Because for a very long time the Russian Federation has been showing everyone, including the OSCE, that they will do what the Russian Federation wants. Regardless of the rights of the OSCE mission. At first, they stopped letting the OSCE into certain facilities in the uncontrolled territory. Although the OSCE mission has the right to monitor in the uncontrolled territory. Then they were refused to monitor the situation on the uncontrolled section of the Ukrainian-Russian border. And it all ended almost in violation of international law, including criminal offenses.

This is terrorism against the OSCE mission, restriction of free movement, hostage-taking. This is a terrorist act.

– Yes, in fact, it is the capture of people who were in the hotel. They are not allowed to leave the hotel, they are not allowed to do their job, which was prescribed by the OSCE SMM mandate. Which was confirmed by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at the Paris Summit of the Normandy format in December 2019. And now puppet representatives are detaining people. How can this affect international relations, the situation in the negotiations and the OSCE mission?

– It will definitely have an impact. Because from a legal point of view – and I am speaking now as a jurist – the actions taken against OSCE members are an international terrorist act. And, probably, it will be qualified.

I think that, of course, now international organizations, not only the OSCE, but, most likely, the UN, PACE, the European Union should have their say on this. And, probably, this will be the subject of consideration in many international platforms.

This will most likely be the subject of consideration by the Trilateral Contact Group.

– I just wanted to ask you about the TCG. What does the Ukrainian delegation think about what is happening? How will you react?

– The Ukrainian delegation officially expressed its opinion on this issue. Today, it was voiced in the Trilateral Contact Group. That we greatly appreciate the work of the OSCE and consider the situation not just an obstacle to its work, but an international terrorist act. So far I do not know whether there will be extraordinary meetings of the TCG on this issue. Naturally, this depends on the decision of the OSCE as the coordinator of the TCG. But if there is such a meeting, we are ready to interrupt our work and appear at extraordinary meetings.