World News

OSCE's Ukraine monitors were not target of deadly blast, inquiry finds

VIENNA (Reuters) - A vehicle belonging to an international monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine that struck a landmine in April, killing a U.S. paramedic on board, was not the mine’s intended target, an independent investigation has found.

The death was the first suffered by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission while on patrol in Ukraine, where its 700 observers report on a conflict that has deeply strained relations between Russia and the West.

Two other members of the team were wounded in the blast during a routine patrol near the small village of Pryshyb, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The investigation into the circumstances of the explosion was carried out by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, an international body based in Switzerland. Its findings were presented to the 57-nation OSCE on Thursday.

“We concluded that it is unlikely that the SMM was the intended target, given that the mission rarely used this road, the patrol was planned late, and there was limited opportunity to lay mines during the patrol,” Alfredo Labbe, a Chilean ambassador who headed the investigation team, said in a statement issued by the OSCE.

A 2015 ceasefire between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country is regularly violated, and Washington cites the conflict as a key obstacle to improved relations between Russia and the United States.

The OSCE, whose participating states include Ukraine, Russia and the United States, in March extended its monitoring in Ukraine by a year.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Ralph Boulton