The OSCE in Donetsk – What are they there for?

Graham Phillips

The OSCE, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have been a sizeable presence in Donetsk for over 2 years now, with their fleet white Toyota Landcruiser vehicles in the city, and personnel numbering in total near 600 in Donbass, many of whom are based in Donetsk, being as it is the largest urban centre in Donbass, plus still at the centre of ongoing hostilities (the Lugansk area now, largely calm).

Ostensibly, they are here to report on ceasefire violations, shelling, and other incidents related to a situation classified as war, in Donetsk, since May 26th, 2014. They provide spot reports, on their website, and maintain a Twitter feed.

Yet, for an organisation over 40-years-old – it has its origins in the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) held in Helsinki, Finland – there’s an alarming absence of any coherent policy. Take speaking to the media, you can, on occasion find a friendly OSCE monitor who will be more than happy to. But last week, when I tried speaking to them, one of them even slapped my camera –

More importantly, this shelling was abundantly clearly from Ukrainian positions. Yet, in their spot report, the OSCE didn’t identify the Grads as having come from Ukrainian positions, writing fired from a direction ranging from south-west to west – the only positions there are Ukrainian positions.

So, what happened? The report came out, went largely unnoticed. Yet, if the OSCE had come out and said that shelling from Ukraine-controlled territory had hit, and wrecked, homes in Donbass? That would have made a story, no matter how begrudgingly, the western media would have had to cover it.

So, why didn’t the OSCE say who controlled the territory from which the shelling came? Again, there’s no coherent policy, because when the OSCE want to say who controls the territory from which shelling came, they can absolutely do that – as in January 2015, Mariupol – OSCE mission report: Mariupol shelled from rebel-controlled territory | KyivPost

So, what’s going on? When shelling comes from Ukraine-controlled territory, they osce-hugsimply give directions, yet when they can say it came from ‘rebel’ territory they shout that from the rooftops? Where’s the policy?

After all, this is an organisation which makes a big show of caring about casualties of the conflict in Donbass. The Principal Deputy Chief Monitor, and de facto ‘face’ of OSCE operations in Donbass, Alexander Hug (pictured), recently stating – In whose interests is it when children are endangered? Last Fri 4 y-old boy spent night in freezing basement as Debaltseve was shelled.

Yet, if the OSCE had actually stated who was doing the shelling, surely this situation could have been resolved much earlier? The entire conflict in Donbass is predicated on the concept perpetuated in the west that Ukraine are somehow the ‘good guys’, defending their land against ‘Russian aggressors’. But, if a wider audience knew Ukrainian forces were targeting civilian areas with shelling, on a daily basis, it’s untenable western governments would have been able to support Ukraine as they have, and pressure on the Kiev government could have resulted in the conclusion of this protracted, bloody conflict a long time ago.

However, the OSCE not reporting who is responsible for the shelling is far from the only problem with their ‘mission’ in Donbass. Often, they simply don’t turn up to shelling sites. This recent scene, the village of Alexandrovka, the edge of Donetsk, around 20km from the centre of Donetsk, and the OSCE simply didn’t go there –

As the woman in the video explains, the OSCE have, arbitrarily, decided to draw a line which they won’t go beyond. The OSCE didn’t visit this scene at all, and on the day, I took a couple of photos of their fleet, apparently all, or almost all, back at basecamp in the centre of Donetsk – osce-donetsk


There are a lot of questions to put the OSCE – why no coherent policy on speaking to the media? Why do they blame one side for shelling, but cover up for the other? Why, when they have all the resources, do they choose not visit some shelling sites?

Perhaps, an over-riding question, in Donetsk, just what are the OSCE there for?

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