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Spot Report by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM): SMM establishment of advance team in Mariupol, 28 August 2014

 This report is for media and the general public.

The SMM established an advance team in Mariupol to monitor the security situation in the area. This presence is being strengthened.

On 29 August the SMM visited Mariupol (113km south of Donetsk) to monitor the overall security situation. The SMM observed that the situation appeared to be calm, with public transportation and shops working normally. However, the SMM noted significant movement of Ukrainian military vehicles - mainly armoured personnel carriers - through the city. The SMM visited a checkpoint (CP) located in Volodarskoye (24km northwest of Mariupol), where the situation also appeared to be calm.

The deputy chief of the local police informed the SMM that the situation in the town was calm. He stated that the area around Novoazovsk (45km to the east of Mariupol) was currently under control of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), but that “Anti-Terrorist Operation” (“ATO”) forces were containing the situation and preventing further “DPR” advance. The interlocutor also told the SMM about ongoing shelling from Novoazovsk area towards the village of Bezimene (15km to the west of Novoazovsk). For this reason, he said, the road along the coastline, from Mariupol to Bezimene, had been closed in both directions. He stated that Ukrainian military forces, supported by a number of volunteer battalions under “ATO” command, were operating inside Mariupol and in the surrounding areas.

The SMM has established a base in Mariupol, and is strengthening its presence there in order to expand its monitoring activities.

29 August 2014
The SMM established an advance team in Mariupol to monitor the security situation in the area. This presence is being strengthened.
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Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected by all sides and at all times, says Chair

Bern, August 29, 2014 - Swiss Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Didier Burkhalter, expressed great concern about the spreading of military confrontation to further areas in eastern parts of Ukraine and the respective escalation of tensions. He also said that reports about growing flows of military personnel and military equipment from the Russian Federation into Ukraine were greatly troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. He recalled that the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its sovereignty had to be respected and preserved by all sides and at all times, adding that failure to do so would contravene international law and fundamental principles of the OSCE.

Emphasizing the importance of the recent summit meeting in Minsk and the striving for a diplomatic solution, Burkhalter urged leaders of all sides to help translate their commitment for peace into meaningful practical progress and to continue their dialogue to that end. Commending the work of the Trilateral Contact Group, he encouraged all sides to use this platform even more intensively and work with the CiO representative to simultaneously establish agreements on the conditions of a ceasefire and on the effective control of the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Burkhalter pointed out that the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine had established a base in Mariupol and was strengthening its presence there in order to expand its monitoring activities in the region and provide verified information about current developments. He concluded by saying that the OSCE would continue to assist Ukraine in efforts at de-escalating the situation and to support, facilitate and promote respective dialogue on the international level as well as within Ukraine. 

29 August 2014
Bern, August 29, 2014 - Swiss Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Didier Burkhalter, expressed great concern about the spreading of military confrontation to further areas in eastern parts of Ukraine and the respective escalation of tensions. He also said that reports about growing flows of military personnel and military equipment from the Russian Federation into Ukraine were greatly troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. He recalled that the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its sovereignty had to be respected and preserved by all sides and at all times, adding that failure to do so would contravene international law and fundamental principles of the OSCE.
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Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMMU) issues first thematic report on Internal displacement in Ukraine

Based on about 400 interviews with internally displaced persons (IDPs), conducted by Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMMU) teams during the period of 18 June to 19 July 2014, the SMMU has issued its first thematic report. 

The report aims to provide an overview of the current situation of internally displaced persons in Ukraine.

The first part of the report briefly describes the current IDP situation, the normative framework in place to guarantee the rights of IDPs, and ongoing efforts to assist internally displaced persons. The second part of the report gives voice to IDPs themselves – based on interviews with IDPs from Ukraine’s eastern regions and Crimea, it outlines the IDPs’ own perceptions of their current situation and future plans.

14 August 2014
This report presents views on displacement and future expectations of around 400 internally displaced persons, interviewed by the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) in thirteen Ukrainian regions between 18 June and 19 July 2014.
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OSCE representative calls on Ukrainian authorities to drop legislative provisions endangering media freedom and free flow of information

VIENNA, 12 August 2014 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović expressed her concern about a draft law on sanctions registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on 8 August and approved in the first reading today.

The draft law allows authorities to prohibit or restrict television and radio channel retransmission; restrict or terminate media activities, including on the Internet; restrict or prohibit the production or distribution of printed materials; and restrict or terminate telecommunication services and public telecommunications network usage.

 “I call on the members of the Verkhovna Rada to drop the provisions of the law endangering media freedom and pluralism and going against OSCE commitments on free expression and free media,” Mijatović wrote in a letter to Oleksandr Turchinov, Chair of the Verkhovna Rada, today.

“I fully understand the national security concerns expressed by the Government of Ukraine in relation to the ongoing conflict, but this should not justify a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” Mijatović said. “The measures included in the draft law represent a clear violation of international standards and thus directly curtail the free flow of information and ideas – the concept that lies at the heart of free expression and free media. The draft law effectively reverses much of Ukraine’s progress in media freedom.”

Mijatović also reiterated her firm belief that in difficult and sensitive situations, such as Ukraine is in at the moment, media freedom and a plurality of opinions must be protected.

“All citizens must have the right to access all available information, irrespective of its source, without interference from the authorities and regardless of geographical or political boundaries, so that universally recognised human rights and democratic processes can be reaffirmed and strengthened,” Mijatović added.

12 August 2014
VIENNA, 12 August 2014 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović expressed her concern about a draft law on sanctions registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on 8 August and approved in the first reading today...
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Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine - Thematic report: Internal displacement in Ukraine
12 August 2014
This report presents views on displacement and future expectations of around 400 internally displaced persons, interviewed by the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) in thirteen Ukrainian regions between 18 June and 19 July 2014.
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Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 hrs, 10 August 2014

This update is provided for media and general public.

Detention of those considered supporters of the “LPR” in the Luhansk region continues. People continue to flee Luhansk city. The clearance of the Maidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv is almost complete. 

The acting mayor of   Bilyi Kolodets (90 km northeast of Kharki  v city) told the SMM on 9 August that around 70 people from the town had received mobilization orders. He added that their mothers and wives were opposed to their mobilization.

A number of interlocutors in Pershetravneve (50 km southwest of Kharkiv city) told the SMM on 10 August that all internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, hosted by a local Baptist church in the town, had returned home. According to the interlocutors, these people have, however, been replaced by other IDPs from Donetsk and Luhansk cities.

A police officer in Starobilsk (86 km north of Luhansk city) told the SMM on 6 August that criminal investigations were underway into the organizing and financing of the 11 May “independence referendum” in Starobilsk. He said those who participated in the associated electoral commissions may also be prosecuted, but that this was unlikely for voters in the process.

Members of the Ukrainian 24th volunteer battalion told the SMM in Shchastya (23 km north of Luhansk city) on 8 August that they had earlier that day detained an lieutenant colonel of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) from Luhansk city and the mayor of Artymovsk (115 km west of Luhansk city) at the filtration checkpoints in Shchastya. They also confirmed that they had detained the mayor of Luhansk city the previous day, also at the Shchastya checkpoint, where, they said, other people fleeing the city had pointed him out. The SMM at the Shchastya checkpoint observed, on 9 August, volunteer soldiers detaining a man suspected of being a member of the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (”LPR”).

The military officer in charge of the checkpoint at Shchastya told the SMM on 8 August that 612 people had passed through the checkpoint on 7 August. The corresponding figure for 8 August was 687.

A Ukrainian border guard stationed at Melovoye border crossing point (136 km northeast of Luhansk city) told the SMM on 9 August that the BCP had come under attack the previous night by assailants using Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). The border crossing point at Krasna Talivka (70 km northeast of Luhansk city) was reportedly attacked on 6 August. 

The situation remained tense in the Donetsk region. On 10 August the SMM observed people hiding in the basement of the railway station. On the previous day, the new “prime minister“ of the “Donetsk People's Republicˮ (“DPRˮ)  released a statement on the “DPRˮ website, saying the “DPRˮ was willing to enage in a ceasefire arrangement with Ukrainian military forces in order to avoid a “humanitarian catastropheˮ. 

The situation remained calm in Dnepropetrovsk.

Managers at Kherson Master Power Grid (KMPG) in Nova Kahovka (76 km east of Kherson city) told the SMM on 8 August that the company – which, they said, supplied 95% of the Crimean peninsula’s electricity needs – had signed contracts with customers in Crimea in May. They said KMPG staff worked in Crimea, servicing lines and equipment. They said planned desalination plants – meant to compensate for water supplies lost from the North Crimea Canal – would require expensive line upgrades because more electricity would be required. They dismissed alternative electricity sources, saying those from Russia would require an expensive and lengthy project delivery cycle; and topographical and geological considerations precluded nuclear energy development.

The situation remained calm in Odessa.

On 9 August members of a local “self-defence” group in Hlyboca (30 km south of Chernivtsi city) told the SMM that, in addition to collecting items and transporting them to troops fighting in the east, they were providing assistance to three IDP families from the east now living in the town. Speaking later to the SMM, one of the families commended local authorities on their efforts to integrate the family, specifically mentioning the fact that the local school provided Russian-language instruction.

A number of local people in Krasnoilysk village (42 km south of Chernivtsi city) told the SMM on 10 August that local authority representatives had given guarantees that local men mobilized would not be sent to the east to fight in the on-going security operation. They said the guarantees had helped to end the protests against mobilization which had been taking place throughout the region. The interlocutors, however, were worried that these undertakings would not be honoured.

In Kelmentsi (90 km northwest of Chernivtsi city), members of an NGO collecting non-lethal supplies for soldiers fighting in the east told the SMM on 10 August that approximately 30 soldiers form Kelmentsi district were deployed in the east.

On 9 August the “self-defence” co-ordinator of Ivano-Frankivsk city told the SMM that “self-defence” volunteers – initially 100 but later approximately 450 – would soon be formed into a battalion, which would be sent to fight in the east. He added that finding volunteers was not a problem – the challenge was equipment. He also warned that efforts to de-stabilise western Ukraine were underway, evidenced, he said, by the recent attack on the mayor’s residence in Lviv city. He also said the influx of IDPs into the region provided good cover for people wishing to de-stabilise the region.

The chief of police in Boryslav (90 km south of Lviv city) told the SMM on 8 August that there had been no problems in implementing partial mobilization in the town. Members of a local “self-defence” group, however, told the SMM on the same day that some people in the town had mixed feelings about mobilisation, concerned specifically that draftees were being sent to fight in Donbas without the necessary equipment. The “self-defence” group members added that their organisation’s focus was on ensuring such aid reached the troops.

The clearance of Maidan square and adjacent streets in Kyiv – which began on 7 August – continued on 9 and 10 August. Municipal workers – operating trucks, cranes and bulldozers – and volunteers, numbering at one point almost 600, were overseen by a discreet police presence, and met no violent opposition from the few remaining people encamped on the square. By 18:00 hrs, 10 August, only one tent and a few barricades on an adjacent street and a makeshift stage on the square, serving as a memorial to those who died in February, remained.   

11 August 2014
Detention of those considered supporters of the “LPR” in the Luhansk region continues. People continue to flee Luhansk city. The clearance of the Maidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv is almost complete...
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Presidential candidates in Turkey able to campaign freely, but playing field not level, say international observers

ANKARA, 11 August 2014 – Three candidates, representing different political positions, were generally able to campaign freely, and freedoms of assembly and association were respected in the 10 August presidential election in Turkey, international election observers said in a statement issued today. However, the Prime Minister’s use of his official position, along with biased media coverage, gave him a distinct advantage over the other candidates.

“This first direct presidential election demonstrated that there is a vibrant political life in Turkey, and the preliminary results show the potential for a healthy balance in political forces,” said Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė, Special Co-ordinator who led the short-term OSCE observer mission. “However, the challenges we have noted, particularly the imbalanced media coverage, must be overcome to fully live up to the democratic aspirations of the people.”

The Supreme Board of Elections (SBE) and the election administration functioned in a professional manner, and there was overall confidence in the quality of the voter register, the preliminary statement notes. However, the absence of a right to appeal election administration decisions limits the ability to seek effective judicial remedy in case of election disputes.

“The presence of political party representatives in polling stations across the country yesterday is an important oversight mechanism,” said Åsa Lindestam, Head of the OSCE PA Delegation. “I hope that citizens and NGOs will also be given the right to observe in the future, bringing Turkey’s dynamic civil society fully into the election process.”

International observers noted that media coverage of the campaign reflected a bias in favour of the Prime Minister, with major television stations providing extensive coverage of his campaign and only limited coverage of other contestants. The imbalance in media coverage was compounded by the predominance of paid political advertising for him and by the absence of a clear definition of the impartiality requirement for broadcasters.

“The direct election of the president marks only the beginning of a new phase of Turkey’s democratic development,” said Meritxell Mateu Pi, Head of the PACE Delegation. “We will continue to work with Turkey and support its efforts in fulfilling the Council of Europe’s standards.”

The largely active and peaceful campaign was undermined by the misuse of state resources, the staging of campaign activities during official state events and, in some cases, attacks on the campaign of one of the candidates. The introduction of campaigning in minority languages was a positive change to the legal framework, although recent election administration regulations still require that the main language of campaign coverage and advertising be Turkish. The decision by the SBE to apply an earlier law than the 2012 Law on Presidential Elections, thus resulting in a ten-day campaign period, meant that campaigning was underway for almost three weeks before key campaign regulations took effect.

“Despite guarantees in the law, this decision of the SBE contributed to the lack of a level playing field”, said Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission. “The delay in applying these provisions and the misuse of state administrative resources benefited the governing party’s candidate.”

While the legal framework was found to be generally conducive to the holding of democratic elections, a lack of clarity and accountability resulted in inconsistencies in its implementation. In particular, discrepancies remain between the 2012 law and earlier laws regulating elections in general. The recent introduction of campaign finance regulations was a step forward, although these regulations do not extend to private and party sources of funding or provide for adequate oversight of campaign financing or sanctions in the event of violations.

In a positive step, the introduction of out-of-country voting gave nearly three million citizens abroad the chance to vote. However, active conscripts, cadets and prisoners who have been convicted of intentional crimes were not permitted to vote.

In the limited number of polling stations visited by the international observers, election day was generally organized in a professional and efficient manner, and polling station committees were well prepared and followed voting procedures overall.

The final report is expected to be presented in six to eight weeks.

For further information contact:

Andreas Baker, OSCE PA, +90 530 393 5427 or +45 60 10 81 26, andreas@oscepa.dk

Thomas Rymer, OSCE/ODIHR, +90 530 393 5434 or +48 609 522 266, thomas.rymer@odihr.pl

Nathalie Bargellini, PACE, +33 665 40 3282 or +33 388 41 2282, nathalie.bargellini@coe.int

11 August 2014
ANKARA, 11 August 2014 – Three candidates, representing different political positions, were generally able to campaign freely, and freedoms of assembly and association were respected in the 10 August presidential election in Turkey, international election observers said in a statement issued today. However, the Prime Minister’s use of his official position, along with biased media coverage, gave him a distinct advantage over the other candidates...
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A voter in Ankara casts his ballot during the presidential election in Turkey, 10 August 2014.
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Intimidation of Turkish journalist by political leadership threatens media freedom and journalists' safety, says OSCE media freedom representative

VIENNA, 8 August 2014 – Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media expressed concern today over the targeting of prominent Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman by the highest authorities in Turkey.

”I am alarmed by the latest example of intimidation of and threats towards journalists in Turkey,” Mijatović said. ”Critical ideas  are indispensable elements of democratic debates, and they need to be safeguarded and not attacked by the authorities.”

On 7 August, during a campaign rally in the southern province of Malatya, the Prime Minister of Turkey  directly and severely criticized journalist Amberin Zaman, which resulted in a smear campaign against her, including on social media.

”The widespread smear campaign against Amberin Zaman threatens her safety,” the Representative said.

Zaman has worked as Turkey correspondent of The Economist for 15 years and is a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf.  The Prime Minister’s remarks follow Zaman’s comments made on CNN Türk on 5 August.

Representative Miajtović has been calling for increased freedom of expression in Turkey since she took office in 2010. Her earlier statements can be found at www.osce.org/fom.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on facebook.com/osce.rfom.

8 August 2014
VIENNA, 8 August 2014 – Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media expressed concern today over the targeting of prominent Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman by the highest authorities in Turkey...
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Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk, for the period 30 July – 5 August 2014

This update is for media and the general public.

SUMMARY

KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russian Federation, 6 August 2014 - This report details the arrival of the Observer Mission (OM) in the Russian Federation and the installation of the Mission in Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy. Also noted is the start of observation at the border checkpoints, fighting close to the Gukovo border checkpoint, and the crossing of 12 and then 437 Ukrainian servicemen into the Russian Federation.

DETAIL

The decision of the OSCE Permanent Council about the deployment tasks observers “operating under the principles of impartiality and transparency, with monitoring and reporting on the situation at the checkpoints of Donetsk and Gukovo, as well as on the movements across the border.”

OSCE Observer Mission’s arrival, establishment and observation work

The first eight OM mission members (first responders) arrived in Rostov-on-Don, in the Russian Federation on Tuesday, 29 July. The next day, 30 July, the OM moved to Kamensk-Shakhtinkiy (150 km north of Rostov-on-Don) and established its mission base there and briefly visited the border checkpoints of Donetsk and Gukovo for the first time.

On 30 July the OM’s two Observer Teams started their work on each border checkpoint for an average of eight hours per shift at different times of the day, evening and night. When the situation required Observer Teams to stay longer, they did. This was the case during the transfer of the Ukrainian servicemen (see below), when Observer Teams stayed on site for 35 hours non-stop. With only two Observer Teams, the OM has not yet been able to observe activities at the border checkpoints on a 24/7 basis.

The OM will receive additional observers by the end of the week and will thus be able to observe activities at the border checkpoints for longer hours. It is hoped that the OM will reach its full capacity of 16 civilian monitors led by a Chief Observer and accompanied by three administrative staff, by the end of August and then will be able to observe the situation at the border checkpoint of Gukovo and Donetsk on a 24/7 basis.

The Russian authorities have been very supportive in assisting the OM to establish its mission base and fulfil its mandate of observing activities and movements at the two border checkpoints. The OM is in constant contact with the Border Guard and the regional administration authorities.

Observation at the Gukovo border checkpoint

The Gukovo border checkpoint has been closed for several weeks and therefore activities on site have been very limited. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and separatists has been going on very close to the Gukovo border checkpoint in the past week. The OM observed several shells falling in the territory of the Russian Federation (two on Saturday,2 August, and two on Monday, 4 August, early morning), two of which fell directly on the Gukovo border checkpoint, causing minor damage (see Spot Report of 3 August 2014). The Observer Mission was not able to confirm who was responsible for the shelling.

Observation at the Donetsk border checkpoint

According to Russian authorities, the Donetsk border checkpoint is the busiest in the Rostov region. It operates 24/7 and accounts for approximately 50 to 60 percent of all the cross-border movement in the Rostov region. This is due to the fact that several border checkpoints are currently closed (including Gukovo) and ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine has forced many Ukrainians to seek refuge in the Russian Federation.

The OM observed a high flow of pedestrians and cars, and according to civilians entering the Russian Federation, there are hundreds of cars and at times up to a kilometre of pedestrians waiting to cross despite the border checkpoint working at full capacity.

On the two first days of its observation (31 July and 1 August), the OM observed several groups of ten to twelve young men in military-style dress with backpacks going to Ukraine from the Russian Federation and coming from Ukraine. In some instances, some of the young men coming back from Ukraine were visibly lightly wounded and on two occasions the OM observed a flag of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” on some young men’s clothes. The OM did not observe any weapons. After 1 August the OM has not seen such groups.

The OM also witnessed regular evacuations in ambulances of wounded civilians, Ukrainian servicemen and separatists to hospitals in the region through both Gukovo and Donetsk border checkpoints.

Assisting Ukrainian servicemen to cross the Gukovo border checkpoint

On 1 August the OM was contacted by Ukrainian servicemen (military and border guards) who asked for the OM’s assistance to facilitate the crossing of 12 and then 437 servicemen into the Russian Federation. The crossings occurred respectively in the nights of 2/3 August and 3/4 August (See Report of 4 August 2014). The servicemen clearly requested to be taken back to Ukraine through a safe border checkpoint as soon as possible. This request was co-ordinated with the Russian authorities, Ukrainian servicemen and the relevant authorities in Kyiv. On Monday, 4 August, Russian and Ukrainian authorities had already started the process of transferring the Ukrainian servicemen back to Ukraine but it was temporarily stopped when the first convoy was attacked while transiting in Ukraine on Tuesday 5 August, resulting in four servicemen wounded.

[Note: according to the information made available in the afternoon of Wednesday, 6 August, the transfer has been resumed and another group of 192 Ukraine servicemen was being transferred to Ukraine.]

6 August 2014
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russian Federation, 6 August 2014 - This report details the arrival of the Observer Mission (OM) in the Russian Federation and the installation of the Mission in Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy. Also noted is the start of observation at the border checkpoints, fighting close to the Gukovo border checkpoint, and the crossing of 12 and then 437 Ukrainian servicemen into the Russian Federation...
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Statement by OSCE Chairperson’s Personal Representative Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk

TBILISI, 4 August 2014 – Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference, made the following statement today following recent media reports:

“Recent reports of multiple incidents along the front lines are cause for concern. Every casualty is a tragedy for the families and other people involved. The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and the Minsk Group Co-chairs addressed this issue in their statement of 2 August (see www.osce.org/cio/122190).

“In line with my mandate, I will continue liaising closely with the sides, including at the highest levels, with a view to assist them in de-escalating the situation. I and my team will continue our monitoring activities that are organized in co-operation with the sides, most recently on 1 August. 

“During each monitoring exercise, my teams approach the Line of Contact or the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, receive information from the respective sides concerning ceasefire violations and the general situation also in other locations, but observe the situation in one specific location only. We also offer the opportunity to the local commanders to address issues of mutual concern and defuse tensions.

“The reports from the monitoring exercises are submitted to the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and members of the Minsk Group. Reports of incidents are also passed on by my Office to the relevant OSCE structures. We do not comment publicly either on the course of the respective monitoring exercises, or on their findings. Any press reports of this character are not based on information provided by my office."

4 August 2014
TBILISI, 4 August 2014 – Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on the conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference, made the following statement today following recent media reports...
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