Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 28.10.2018
On 27 October, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation brought down a long-range surveillance drone operated by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. It was probably shot down by a 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile complex operated by the Russians from territory near Nyzhnokrynske in Donetsk region – which has been Russian-occupied since 2014.
The OSCE SMM unarmed aerial vehicle was on a long-range observation mission at night. At 1:36 in the morning on October 27, the UAV spotted a convoy of seven trucks on a dirt road near the village of Manych. This was the seventh time since August 7 that the OSCE SMM had caught the Russians moving military convoys back and forth across the uncontrolled international Ukraine-Russian Federation border. The Russian convoys are going to and from a military supply base at Russkoye in Rostov region in the Russian Federation – 12 kilometres from the border.
Following the convoy, the OSCE SMM drone started to experience communications problems as it was being jammed by the Russians. At 1:53 a.m. all communications were lost while the UAV was flying at an altitude of about 7,000 feet over an area south-east of Nyzhnokrynske – where the Russian 9K33 Osa unit was spotted earlier. The drone did not return to base, and the OSCE SMM considers it to be lost.
The OSCE SMM had been flying UAVs to fulfill its mandate from early on in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but stopped in 2016. The OSCE SMM suspended the program because the Russians kept shooting OSCE drones down.
The OSCE SMM re-launched its long-range drone program on 28 March 2018, using the same Camcopter S-100s that were shot down numerous times by the Russians in 2016. The OSCE gave no warning to the Russian Federation about shooting down OSCE drones, and the Russians promptly started shooting them down again. On 2 April 2018, only five days after the program was re-launched, Russia shot down the first of the 2018 batch of OSCE SMM UAVs.
On May 21, the Russians shot down an OSCE SMM UAV at Vesela Hora with a rifle gun. Vesela Hora is in Russian-occupied Luhansk region, and it overlooks the town of Schastia in free Ukraine, across the Siverskyi Donets River.
On June 15, the Russians shot at an OSCE SMM drone twice with a 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile complex, missing both times. Because the drone survived the encounter, video footage exists of the Russian attack on the OSCE asset.
The Russian Federation is attempting to cover-up its invasion and occupation of Ukraine in Donbas by shooting down OSCE drones. The resupply of war matériel from the Russian base at Russkoye is massive. As soon as the OSCE SMM started to fly long-range missions in August it spotted the intense Russian activity. The Russians responded by moving sophisticated electronic warfare equipment into the occupied territory of Ukraine, to jam the OSCE drones. They also deployed 9K33 Osa surface-to-air missile complexes to shoot them down.
The Russians have never faced any consequences for shooting down OSCE drones. The OSCE doesn’t ask the Russians to refrain from attacking OSCE assets. The OSCE SMM doesn’t acknowledge that the Russian Federation is a party to the conflict. It even includes Russian members on its team: it welcomes Russians to observe their own invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainians are excluded.
The OSCE is viewed with contempt by Ukrainians. The OSCE SMM uses language like “both sides” and “non-government controlled territory” and “conflict in Ukraine” which boosts the Russian aggressor and harms Ukrainian defenders.
The Russian Federation must be expelled from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Russians are waging war against OSCE member Ukraine, have invaded and now occupy part of Ukraine’s territory, have grossly violated the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, they have been caught resupplying their army in Donbas at least the seven times that were observed since August, and they shoot down OSCE unarmed aerial vehicles. In no way is the Russian Federation a contributor to “security and co-operation in Europe.” The aggressor state of Muscovy has to be thrown out of the OSCE if that organization is to have any hope of survival.