Four OSCE vehicles set fire in Donetsk in 'arson attack'10 august 2015, 10:50
OSCE observers based in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine said Sunday that four of their vehicles were destroyed in an apparent arson attack at their hotel, AFP reports.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe described the attack as aimed at halting its monitoring activities in the separatist region, but stressed that it has no plans to leave.
The OSCE's special monitoring mission to Ukraine, which observes the conflict and observation of the peace deal signed in February, said that four of its armoured vehicles were destroyed overnight in an "apparent arson attack".
The reinforced glass of the windows of the armoured vehicles had cracked in the heat of the fire and their paint had peeled off, an AFP photographer reported.
"There are, it seems, some who would like the OSCE to stop reporting on what is going on in Donetsk," the OSCE's mission to Ukraine wrote on Facebook.
"The Mission has no plans to withdraw at this stage," it added.
It said that separatists are responsible for ensuring the safety of the mission and its property.
The vehicles were parked outside the Park Inn Hotel in downtown Donetsk with around 20 other OSCE vehicles.
The attack came at around 2.30 am on Sunday (2330 GMT Saturday) with observers hearing the tyres bursting in the blaze, the OSCE said in a statement.
It said three of the 4x4 vehicles were completely destroyed while one was badly damaged and several other vehicles nearby suffered more minor damage.
Ukraine's military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk linked the attack to the OSCE's statements on the conflict in the region.
"We know that representatives of the OSCE mission recently have given a lot of information that is unfavourable to the unlawful armed groups who today have occupied Donetsk," he said at a briefing in Kiev on Sunday.
"It's obvious that this was done by their partners in crime."
The rebels however blamed the attack on "Ukrainian saboteurs", according to their official website.
A senior rebel figure, Denis Pushilin, said the separatist authorities had "stepped up security measures for the mission representatives," quoted by the separatists' official news agency.
The number of attacks on OSCE observers has increased in recent weeks in war-torn eastern Ukraine, where the conflict has claimed more than 6,800 lives in 15 months.
One observer suffered a minor head injury in late July after being caught in an exchange of heavy gun and sniper fire in Shyrokyne, a flashpoint village around 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Mariuopol, the only major city in the conflict zone still under Kiev's control.
The OSCE's deputy mission chief in Ukraine, Alexander Hug, told reporters at the time that this was one of three recent "targeted security incidents".
The Western monitors said that coming under "targeted fire" had forced them to rethink their future operations in the region.