OSCE blocked from the Crimea for a second day

OSCE blocked again from Crimea

Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:36:31 GMT

Military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been barred from entering Ukraine’s semi-autonomous region Crimea for a second day.

Two buses carrying about 40 OSCE observers were stopped on Friday at a checkpoint by armed men flying the Russian flag, while trying to cross into Crimea.

The observers were forced to return to the nearest major Ukrainian city of Kherson, located north of Crimea, “to plan next steps,” OSCE said in a post on Twitter.

The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on the incident, saying the team was prevented because it failed to obtain official invitations from the Crimean authorities.

“The OSCE tried to enter Crimea “bypassing the principle of consensus that is fundamental to the OSCE …, without waiting for official invitations from the Crimean side,” said the Russian ministry.

The OSCE mission had been invited by the new pro-Western authorities in Kiev to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.

The attempt by the OSCE mission was the second failed effort in two days. On Thursday, the team was stopped by unidentified men in military fatigues while trying to enter Crimea by car from Odessa.

Andrei Kelin, Russia’s envoy to OSCE, warned earlier in the week that previous missions by the body in such breakaway regions as Serbia’s Kosovo and Georgia’s South Ossetia had “aggravated the situation.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Crimea unanimously declared they wanted to join Russia and would put the decision to voters on March 16.

Leaders in Crimea have forecast that the region’s residents would vote overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia.

Yet, the new Ukrainian government has declared the planned vote illegal, and Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has said that Crimea has been and will remain an integral part of Ukraine.

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