DGermany and France have accused the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of hindering the work of OSCE observers there under the pretext of the corona pandemic. Foreign ministers of both countries, Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Monday evening that they were “very concerned” about restrictions imposed on the forces deployed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe since March 21.
Observers should have safe, secure and unhindered access throughout Ukraine, the joint statement said. “The outbreak of the corona pandemic must not serve as an excuse to hinder the freedom of movement of the SMM (Special Monitoring Mission / observer mission) and the implementation of its mandate.”
France and Germany have been trying to mediate in the Ukraine conflict for six years. The OSCE has also been monitoring and documenting the struggles between separatists and government forces and the arms movements on both sides since 2014.
On Monday, the separatist authorities first confirmed infection with the dangerous corona virus. Ukraine, which, according to official figures, already has 480 people infected with the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, completely blocked access to the region. However, entries are possible from Russia. International aid organizations fear a humanitarian catastrophe if the corona virus spreads in the war zone.
Parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine along the Russian border have been under the control of pro-Russian rebels since 2014. According to UN estimates, around 13,200 people have been killed in fighting with government forces since then. A peace plan is on hold.