SMM OSCE Chief points out importance of protecting civilians living close to contact line in Donbas

There is an urgent need to protect civilians living close to the contact line in eastern Ukraine, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine Ertugrul Apakan has said in his address to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna.

The press service of the SMM OSCE reported late on Friday that Ambassador Apakan in particular drew attention to the continued presence of military hardware and personnel in and around critical civilian infrastructure facilities, residential areas and entry-exit checkpoints, which he said inevitably resulted in civilian casualties and disruption in the supply of essential utilities such as gas, water and electricity.

"Civilians living close to the contact line continue to pay the price of this conflict. The withdrawal of heavy weapons from hot spots and populated areas should be a priority," he said.

The Chief Monitor described recent developments concerning the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination, a bilateral initiative between Ukraine and Russia. He hoped for a positive outcome of the discussions which are being conducted in other fora.

The Ambassador welcomed the recent visit of OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano to the Mariupol area. The visit, he said was "a testimony to the OSCE's continued and resolute engagement in Ukraine." He said that "the Working Group on Security Issues is a platform where dialogue, ownership and responsibility are crucial elements for progress."