OSCE Still Hopeful on Observers in Crimea, Estonian Ambassador Says
The current state of Russian and Ukrainian relations, including the situation in Crimea, is without precedent, but hope remains that Russia will agree to OSCE observers in Crimea, the Estonian ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mariin Ratnik said.
On the request of Ukraine’s new government, a non-military OSCE mission with 40 unarmed observers from 21 countries was supposed to visit the Ukrainian armed forces and the bases of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in the Crimean peninsula. However, news services have reported that armed people in Crimea have prevented the mission from doing its job.
Ratnik told ERR radio that it is not a clear OSCE mission, instead, the observers are acting under the Vienna Document, responding to the call of the Ukrainian government to come and inspect their military sites. The mission lasts until 16 March, as the observers decided to visit sites in southern and eastern Ukraine.
The observers tried to get to Crimea on four occasions and they were stopped by armed personnel, the ambassador said, adding that they were not directly threatened.
The pro-Russian parliament of Crimea has asked for OSCE observers to monitor the referendum planned for Sunday but the organization declined because Crimea is not a state.
OSCE’s commissioner for media freedom did manage to get to Crimea and has criticized the lack of security for journalists there.
Although the Swiss representative in OSCE has said that Russia agreed to 100 OSCE monitors in Ukraine, Ratnik said she has no information about Russia agreeing to the mission. She added that Russia is at least showing a willingness for discussion - something she said it lacked before.