Russia’s OSCE camera commandeering.
Along the frontline the OSCE monitoring team operate 25 cameras. These cameras play an invaluable part in monitoring the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and since 2015, have recorded 279,900 ceasefire violations. Located at several firing hotspots and three disengagement areas, these allow for safe day/night remote monitoring. Positioned high up on tall masts, the cameras are designed to be visible, with each having an OSCE flag flying above them and both sides informed of their location.
On April 14th, Russia’s forces (RF) began taking an interest in the OSCE camera mast at the abandoned Oktiabr mine. Located in occupied territory on top of one of two tall concrete towers, the camera observes activity around the abandoned Donetsk city airport, northern outskirts of Donetsk city near village of Vesele, and towards the Ukrainian held village of Pisky. Link to OSCE report.
OSCE report states “On 14 April, a senior member of the armed formations asked the Mission whether armed formations could install a camera on the SMM’s (Special Monitoring Mission) mast at the Oktiabr mine. The SMM rejected the request.”
Now there are four reasons why Russia’s forces would want to attach a camera to an OSCE mast. 1: For increased observation of Ukrainian positions. 2: To better coordinate firing on Ukrainian positions. 3: To blame Ukraine for an attack on the OSCE camera – by positioning a camera on the OSCE mast, RF could open fire on the mast and their RF camera could claim to show OSCE footage of Ukrainian fire. 4: RF could fire on Ukrainian positions and use their RF camera to film Ukrainian return fire – thereby claiming Ukrainian forces are ones doing all the firing.
Undeterred by the OSCE rejection of their ludecrous request, RF soldiers went ahead and attached what the OSCE took to be a camera to their mast: “On 17 April, between 21:08 and 22:09, the Oktiabr camera recorded two men in military-type clothing in the immediate vicinity of the Oktiabr camera: one on the mast and the other at its base. During that period, one man was seen on the mast fixing an L-shaped metal frame to its side with bolts and nuts, while the other was standing next to the mast and appeared to be helping hoist up the frame with a rope. The SMM saw that an object, which appeared to be a camera dome with an attached wire, was fixed on this frame. At 22:09, the camera recorded both men disappearing from view. The SMM camera was operational throughout this event; however, its field of visibility was obstructed by the man engaged in attaching the metal frame to the mast.”
Having noted the soldiers activity, the OSCE sent monitors to investigate. On the top floor of the tower they found the ladder leading up to the roof and the OSCE mast had been cut, thereby denying access to it. The RF soldiers had attached one camera to the OSCE mast and another to western wall facing towards Pisky. Confirming the cameras were installed by Russia’s forces, wires from both cameras led to a nearby military position.
“On 19 April, an SMM patrol was dispatched to assess the situation at the camera site. The patrol saw that a ladder from the top floor to the roof had been recently cut, preventing access to the roof to conduct any further assessment. The Mission saw an L-shaped metal frame attached to the camera’s mast, with an object that appeared to be a camera dome fixed on the other end of the frame. The SMM also saw another unidentified object, which appeared to be another camera, attached to the western-facing wall of the tower. The Mission observed wires leading from both objects towards a position of the armed formations, located about 50m from the tower.“
Wisely, but unfortunately, the OSCE were forced to switch off their camera. “The SMM subsequently disabled its camera system later on 19 April to avoid possible interference with its monitoring. The Mission will follow up in order to make a full site assessment.”
This incident is a perfect example of the near total disregard Russia & its puppet Donetsk & Luhansk republics exhibit towards the OSCE. The fact that a “senior member” of Russia’s forces simply ignored an OSCE refusal to allow the attachment of military camera’s to an OSCE mast, makes it crystal clear whose doing most of the firing – and it ain’t the Ukrainian army.
And only those wishing to stop the OSCE from monitoring, literally cut off access to OSCE cameras.