MOSCOW, August 6 (RIA Novosti) – Spokesperson for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Michael Bociurkiw said Wednesday he believes it is not correct to refer to the independence supporters in eastern Ukraine fighting against government forces as “separatists.”
“Well, usually we use the term ‘rebel groups’ or groups opposed to the government. It’s quite a neutral term. There are many different groups that are not only one in eastern Ukraine and they have different causes and priorities and it’s difficult to have one term to describe them,” Bociurkiw told Ukraine’s radio station Radio Vesti.
“Our key role is to be a neutral and credible observer so that we tell people and the world exactly what is happening on the ground when this fighting is taking place,” he said.
The main focus of the mission, which he stressed is “independent and neutral,” is now to facilitate the access for Malaysian and Australian experts, to locate human remains of passengers and retrieve their personal belongings.
The OSCE spokesman praised an “incredible” cooperation of local villagers with the mission, saying they willingly bring the personal belongings of the victims that they manage to find.
Bociurkiw has called for de-escalation of the conflict and preserving peace in the region, saying that there are currently more than 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine who are suffering in this conflict.
Speaking on the figting that occurs near the MH17 crash site, Bociurkiw said that shelling close to the convoy is unacceptable. However, he said it is impossible now to say who has violated the ceasefire. Because of intense fighting, the OSCE had to reconfigure the mission numbers and move monitors away from the combat zone.
The mission, which is now 3 months-old and deployed in 10 Ukrainian cities, including in Donetsk and Luhansk, has witnessed massive destruction of the civilian infrastructure, he added.
The main finding is that the mission “has seen an intense impact on the civilian population” that has been left without essentials for weeks. Eight of the mission’s monitors were kidnapped and kept hostages for a month, he said.
The OSCE mission’s mandate has been recently extended for another six months until March.
According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), since the start of the special operation in eastern Ukraine in mid-April, a total of 1,367 people have been killed and another 4,087 wounded, including 2,589 civilians and 29 children.
Kiev has been conducting a military operation targeting Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new government and chose to pursue independence.
The operation has also forced 117,000 Ukrainians to flee their homes and cross into neighboring Russia in search of shelter. Nearly 3.9 million people who stayed are now trapped in the combat zone, the report said.