An overnight firebombing attack has completely gutted four armored vehicles in separatist-controlled Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. The separatist leader has denounced the vandalism and urged monitors to stay.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe based in the separatist-held city of Donetsk said Sunday that four of their vehicles were torched outside their hotel in an apparent arson attack.
"It seems that this sort of intimidation is aimed at stopping the OSCE from reporting what is going on in the area," Alexander Hug, the deputy head of the monitoring mission, said in the capital Kyiv. "There are, it seems, some who would like the OSCE to stop reporting what is going on in Donetsk."
Since March 2014, the OSCE has had a mission in eastern Ukraine to monitor the conflict between the Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops, which has now killed more than 6,500 people.
No one has claimed responsibility, and the Ukrainian government and separatists have each blamed the other for the damage.
"We know that representatives of the OSCE mission recently have given a lot of information that is unfavorable to the unlawful armed groups who today have occupied Donetsk," Ukraine's military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Sunday during a briefing in Kyiv.
But the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic - whose militia fighters control the city - has condemned the attack, calling it an "outrage." He said all efforts would be made to find those responsible and ensure the safety of the mission.
"It's possible OSCE representatives have not always been objective due to various reasons ranging from the technical to the demands of high politics, however we absolutely are not interested in the mission ending its operation," said separatist leader Pushilin in an online statement.
Monitors criticized by locals
Sunday's arson attack follows a protest of about 300 people outside the OSCE's hotel Thursday, when demonstrators held up banners criticizing the "silence and blindness" of the mission and sprayed red liquid from a hose onto the ground.
It was the second such protest this summer.
Meanwhile, both sides have accused the other of shelling around the rebel-held town of Horlivka, northeast of Donetsk, despite a ceasefire and the promise of peace talks.
Separatists said one civilian had been killed by Ukrainian artillery fire on the town, while the Ukrainian military said rebels were shelling the positions of government troops nearby, describing the situation in the area as unstable.
One Ukrainian soldier has been killed in the past 24 hours, while 10 servicemen, a civilian woman and two children have been wounded, Ukrainian military spokesman Motuzyanyk said Sunday in a daily televised briefing.
jar/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)