According to an article written by Andrew E. Kramer and published in the New York Times, the unarmed civilian observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) are patrolling only during the daytime. However, to mean that they “miss most of Ukraine war” is an unfair overstatement. The mission of the OSCE SMM is “to gather information and report on the security situation establish and report the facts, especially on specific incidents on the ground. The observers talk to various community groups — authorities at all levels, civil society, ethnic and religious groups and local communities.” (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, “The Facts“, 26.04.2016). Finally, they report from dozens to hundreds of cease-fire violations daily. Additionally, the Ukrainian Army reports several deaths per week — commensurate with the casualties of the United States Army during the Iraq war — and the UN says nearly 10,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since March 2014. What would dangerous night patrols (the mandate gives this possibility) of unarmed civilian observers of the OSCE SMM change about that fact?
The teams driving along potholed roads in armored, white Toyota Land Cruisers are not supposed to become human shields separating combatants, but rather to remain close enough to observe the fighting. — Andrew E. Kramer, “Keeping Bankers’ Hours, European Observers Miss Most of Ukraine War“, The New York Times, 27.07.2016.
The relatively moderate mandate of the OSCE SMM is linked with the OSCE decision making process. Basically the OSCE is a conference of 57 sovereign participating States, which are concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation. Every decision — for example the acceptance of a mandate for a monitoring mission — will be adopted by consensus, which means the absence of any objection expressed by a participating State (OSCE Ministerial Council, “Rules of Procedures of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe“, MC.DOC/1/06, 01.11.2006). Russia is one of the participating State, which makes a stronger OSCE mandate very unlikely to pass the decision making process. Actually, having the OSCE SMM established and deployed to monitor the situation on the scene is already a diplomatic success.
In his critic about OSCE SMM’s patrolling at “bankers’ hours”, Kramer forgets to take all the other monitoring means of the OSCE SMM into account. In addition to the patrols, they mainly use unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV; see video below), static cameras and other aerial surveillance. The OSCE own UAVs, Camcopter S-100, are being provided, flown and maintained by the Austrian company Schiebel under contract to the OSCE and operated under the authority and direction of the OSCE SMM. The first of these UAVs has been operational in the region since the end of October 2014. The Camcopter S-100 has a maximal payload of 50 kg, a range of about 180 km and an endurance of about 6 hours (with about 35 kg payload). By default, Schiebel delivers its UAVs with a daylight-camera, an infrared sensor (3-5 micron band) and a laser rangefinder, but other sensors and equipment are also available. Members of the so called “Donetsk People’s Republic” repeatedly attack surveillance drones to conceal facts of ceasefire violations.
The ultimate goal of the OSCE SMM is to help Ukraine to reduce tensions and facilitate dialogue between all the sides. The mission currently consists of over 700 unarmed civilian observers from more than 40 OSCE participating States, of which 600 work in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Chief Monitor of the Mission has been given the flexibility to increase the number of monitors up to 1.000. The observers work in small groups in shifts seven days a week. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, “The Facts“, 26.04.2016). The OSCE SMM dispatches around 90 patrols a day throughout Ukraine on both sides of the contact line.
“Blinding the Eye in the Sky: How Combatant Target the Minsk II Monitoring Mission“, AtlanticCouncil’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, 10.08.2016.