The OSCE Observer Mission spotted more than 30,000 individuals in military-style dress crossing just at the two Russian checkpoints of Gukovo and Donetsk on the border with Ukraine, Ambassador of the United States Daniel B. Baer informed the OSCE Permanent Council states.
“Despite the strict limits imposed on the Observer Mission’s mandate and operating procedures, the Mission has still been able to document Russia’s destabilizing and destructive activity in eastern Ukraine. The Observer Mission has observed more than 30,000 individuals in military-style dress crossing just at the two checkpoints to which it has access,” Baer said in his response to a report by Flavien Schaller, the Chief Observer of the Observer Mission at Gukovo and Donetsk.
However, Baer did not specify the period when the said individuals were documented, but as is seen from the report, it covers the entire period of the mission’s work since 2014.
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According to him, Russia refused to enable the observer mission to fully discharge its mandate on the Russian side of the border. In particular, Schaller’s report mentioned that restrictions continue to hamper the monitoring work of the observer mission especially when it comes to detection of people in military-style outfits in vehicles or during unfavorable weather conditions.
“These individuals reportedly receive weapons once they arrive in separatist-held parts of Ukraine. Twenty uniformed persons crossed the border in a single bus with tinted windows in mid-October. We all know that Russia’s portrayal of these men and women as civilians is an obvious attempt to hide the truth – they are crossing into Ukraine to fight,” Baer said, citing observer mission reports.
On at least 27 different occasions the Observer Mission reported seeing funerary vehicles returning to Russia with a sign reading ‘Cargo 200’ or ‘200,’ a well-known code for Russian military casualties, he stressed.
During the OSCE permanent council in Vienna, Ambassador Baer also claimed about a probable offensive operation by Russian-backed separatist forces against Mariupol and its suburbs.