Denis Pushilin, a leader of the Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's Donetsk region, claimed in a statement to separatist press on July 22, 2017 that while on a visit to Yasynuvata, Kruta Balka and Vasylivka in separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) Alexander Hug failed to note, what Pushilin said, was shelling by Ukrainian forces of the area and an attempt to down the OSCE's drone.
OSCE SMM quickly countered with statements on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag "#factsmatter" noting that in fact, on July 21 the SMM had reported on Twitter an explosion monitors heard while at the pump station in Vasylivka.
The SMM also noted that twice it had to abort flights of its drone because of shell fire, which on one occasion appeared to be aimed at the drone itself. On that day the OSCE also noted in a statement on Twitter that a separatist with the call sign “Zloy” [“Angry”] failed to provide access to monitors at Yasynovata, thereby delaying repair of a pump station damaged by shelling.
Generally, each day's monitoring report appear on the following day, and the report on July 21 appeared July 22 when the OSCE also noted that separatists failed to provide access to monitors at Novoazovsk, and later in its July 24 report noted that observers saw military-type vehicles travelling from Novoazovsk towards the border with the Russian Federation and vice versa.
This specificity regarding Russian involvement in the war, coupled with the naming of an actual separatist fighter on July 21 is likely what drew Pushilin’s ire. A look at the daily reports of the SMM reveal that nevertheless the monitors scrupulously report violations of both sides of the conflict. A difficulty is that OSCE rarely makes an assessment of the identity of the perpetrator of a given cease-fire violation, as its limited mandate is to find facts but not make conclusions. Such calls can also be difficult to make.
But given that the OSCE reports always describes the location and direction of the weapons firing, by looking at the military maps of both sides of the war and following their daily military dispatches, readers can usually figure out which side is likely at fault. When the monitors themselves are obstructed or attacked, they usually readily identify the perpetrators. In the case of the denial of entry at Novoazovsk, a separatist-held town near the Russian border, the facts spoke for themselves. Recent reports readily indicate that the monitors cover allegations of violations by either side brought to their attention.
For example, in the report published July 22, the monitors noted that a woman had been injured in the Trudovskyi area of Petrovski District in Donetsk on July 19. This would likely have been caused by Ukrainian forces firing toward Donetsk in response to daily separatist shelling of Avdiivka and other Ukrainian-controlled frontline towns.
And on July 24, the SMM reported on five civilians injured by shelling on July 21 in Ukrainian government-controlled Marinka, which was likely caused by Russia-backed fighters, as the Ukrainian military reports daily shelling of this front-line town by separatists.
OSCE SMM’s lengthy and detailed reports, while covering violations of both Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces, over time inevitably portray more violations by the latter, particularly on issues of obstruction of access, shooting down of drones and even shooting at the monitors themselves, which OSCE has documented literally hundreds of time in separatist-held territory at close proximity, making it clear that they hold the separatists responsible.