MOSCOW, October 23 (RIA Novosti) – The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday completed the first flight of its drones that will monitor the ceasefire regime in eastern Ukraine, the organization said Thursday.
"The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine [SMM] today successfully completed the maiden flight of its unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] before members of the media near Mariupol in eastern Ukraine," the SMM said in a report published on its website.
The UAV flights are due to start Friday if weather permits, the SMM added.
"The UAVs will enhance existing monitoring capabilities in fulfilment of our mandate in Ukraine," said chief monitor Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan was quoted as saying in the report. "They will compliment what our monitors observe on the ground, which will still be our primary source of information gathering."
The SMM's drones will operate over the area south of the city of Donetsk down to the Sea of Azov, eastward as far as the Ukrainian-Russian border and westward toward the line of contact.
Earlier, France and Germany expressed their readiness to provide their UAVs to the monitoring mission. During Friday's talks on Ukraine in Milan they were joined by Russia and Italy. On the same day, Swiss Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter praised international efforts to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, expressing gratitude for the offers made by the four countries and calling on all parties to integrate UAVs into monitoring activities as soon as possible.
Russian OSCE envoy Andrei Kelin noted that the drones to be used in Ukraine are military-purpose and need to be accompanied by military personnel. This will require introducing amendments to the relevant OSCE mandate which at the moment only presupposes the work of its civilian personnel in Ukraine.
In mid-April, Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters in eastern Ukraine. On September 5, the conflicting sides agreed on a ceasefire at a meeting of the trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine in Minsk, but since then have been blaming each other for violating the truce.