KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to expand its monitoring mission in the country, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said Monday after a meeting with the organization’s chairman.
The OSCE’s special monitoring mission has been present in Ukraine since 2014, when fighting between Ukrainians and Russia-backed separatists broke out in the country’s eastern regions after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The mission’s civilian monitors observe the situation in Ukraine in general and in the war-torn regions in particular, with a special task of facilitating dialogue between the sides of the conflict. Its mandate expires on March 31.
Prystaiko said Kyiv asked the OSCE not only to extend the mission, but to “expand its possibilities and human resources” and support it financially.
OSCE chairman Edi Rama, in turn, called the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine “the most pressing challenge to security and stability in Europe today.”
The move comes amid Ukraine’s efforts to end the war that has killed more than 14,000 people and ravaged the country’s industrial heartland. In December, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany sat down for talks, hoping to revive a 2015 peace deal. The negotiations didn’t produce a breakthrough, but were hailed by both Russia and Ukraine as progress.