OSCE monitors lose 2nd drone in a week over rebel Ukraine

3rd June 2016, Comments 0 comments

Western monitors observing Ukraine's bloody eastern separatist conflict on Friday said they had lost their second surveillance drone over the pro-Russian territory in a week.

The disclosure coincides with a new upsurge in fighting in a 25-month war that has strained ties between Moscow and the West and left eastern European countries bordering Russia on edge.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that drone that was lost on Friday was flying at an altitude of 9,000 feet (2,740 metres) when it "lost all communication and experienced simultaneous system failures".

Its Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine said evidence "strongly suggests" that the drone's tail section was hit from a rebel position about 30 kilometres (20 miles) northeast of the insurgents' de facto capital of Donetsk.

The monitoring team had lost another drone on May 27 shortly after spotting a powerful surface-to-air missile launcher in a rebel-controlled area 35 kilometres northeast of Donetsk.

An OSCE source in Kiev said the number of drones at its disposal remained an operational secret but that the group was working on "restoring their capacity".

There was no initial response from the Donetsk separatists.

The United Nations on Friday said 9,371 people have been killed and 21,532 wounded since the revolt against the pro-Western government in Kiev began in April 2014.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of stirring up the unrest and sending soldiers and equipment across the frontier, parts of which Kiev does not control.

Moscow denies the charges and accuses Washington of fomenting three months of bloody protests which brought down Ukraine's Russian-backed administration in February 2014.

The OSCE has deployed monitors and is organising periodic talks between Moscow and Kiev envoys aimed at ending one of Europe's bloodiest crises since the 1990s Balkans wars.

But a sharp May escalation that claimed the lives of 26 Ukrainian soldiers and an undisclosed number of rebels has dampened hopes of an end to the bloodshed.

"Unfortunately, we have achieved zero progress (in negations) this year," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told reporters.

"On the contrary, the situation on the ground has only heated up."

© 2016 AFP

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