Russia is the aggressor in the war being fought on the territory of Ukraine. No one denies this except agents of Russian propaganda. The OSCE, through its Parliamentary Assembly, outlines and condemns Russian aggression. In July 2016, the Tbilisi Declaration and resolutions were adopted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). In the Tbilisi Declaration, Russia was condemned for its “aggressive practices.” The OSCE PA called on the Russian Federation to “reverse the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” The Tbilisi Declaration talks accurately about Russia’s “armed intervention in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.” The OSCE PA demands that Russia allows the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) to observe conditions anywhere in Ukraine, “in particular the border with the Russian Federation, and to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.” The war is clearly called “the conflict between Russia and Ukraine” in the Tbilisi Declaration.
If the Parliamentary Assembly is the legislative branch of the OSCE, then the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is a part of the executive branch of the OSCE. It is very strange and disturbing, therefore, that the OSCE SMM defines its mission contrary to the requirements of the OSCE PA. The OSCE SMM refuses to say that Russia engages in “aggressive practices” (the language of the Tbilisi Declaration). The OSCE SMM refuses to say that Russia is a party to the conflict, and that the conflict is “the conflict between Russia and Ukraine” (the language of the Tbilisi Declaration. In fact, the OSCE SMM has Russian monitors as a part of its mission team and does not allow Ukrainian monitors. Ukrainians on both sides of the Russian invasion battlefront cannot believe what is happening. Russian soldiers are attacking them and Russian agents in the guise of monitors “supervise” the ceasefires (which Ukraine one-sidedly observes and which Russia violates).
The members of the the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” are Russian soldiers. The Russian members of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) are Russian soldiers. The Russian members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission are Russian soldiers. The Russians in the so-called “DPR” and “LPR” are there to attack Ukrainians. The Russians in the JCCC are there to ensure that the OSCE SMM doesn’t supervise the Ukraine-Russia border, doesn’t enter Crimea, and doesn’t observe all of Russia’s military deployment in Donbas. The Russians in the OSCE SMM are there to spy for Russia, and also to apply moral equivalency to Russia’s invasion and Ukraine’s defence of the homeland. Russia has control of both the prosecution and the supervision of its war of aggression. Russia dominates and exploits the OSCE to do it.
A recent incident brought fresh attention to the perversity of the OSCE SMM mission and how it contradicts OSCE PA directives. On November 23, Russian forces killed three Ukrainian soldiers in battle. One of the Russian soldiers took a phone from the body of one of the Ukrainian soldiers and phoned his mother, to tell her that her son was dead. This was all broadcast on Russian propaganda TV. The Russian soldier then phoned one of the Russian soldiers who serves as a monitor for the OSCE SMM. When the two Russian soldiers met – one pretending to be a “pro-Russian rebel” and the other pretending to be a ceasefire monitor – they embraced, joked together, and saluted one another. Then the OSCE SMM team took away the bodies of the three Ukrainian soldiers.
What the Russian soldiers did shocks moral conscience. It deepens the hatred that Ukrainians have for the Russians disguised as “pro-Russian rebels” and for the Russians disguised as OSCE SMM team members. This incident is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the mission of the OSCE SMM. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is wrong to contradict the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The OSCE SMM is wrong not to act under a mission statement that accurately says that Russia is a party to the conflict, that Russia is the aggressor, and that Russians cannot possibly monitor their own invasion. The OSCE SMM as it is now constituted has earned the hatred of Ukrainians. The OSCE SMM as it is now constituted cannot possibly be a force for peace. The OSCE as a whole cannot possibly be a force for the security of Europe as long as the country invading Europe – Russia – remains a member.