OSCE Mission's Drone Shot Down After Spotting Russian Missile in Eastern Ukraine
(Source: Radio Free Europe; issued Nov 01, 2018)
Germany and France say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine likely shot down a drone being used by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) monitoring mission, and demand that those responsible “be held accountable.”

In a joint statement on November 1, Berlin and Paris also noted that in recent weeks, the drone had observed convoys entering Ukrainian territory across a nonofficial border crossing from Russia on "multiple occasions" and spotted a surface-to-air missile system before the loss of communication.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.

Germany and France, which have been working with Moscow and Kyiv as part of the so-called Normandy Format to bring an end to the conflict, said the drone operated by the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) disappeared in the early hours of October 27.

The incident occurred while the long-range drone was following a convoy of trucks near the town of Nyzhnokrynske close to the Russia-Ukraine border, an area controlled by the separatists, the statement said.

It said evidence assembled by the SMM “suggests Russia and the separatists it backs bear responsibility” for the downing of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

The “severe” incident “stands in clear violation” of the SMM mandate as adopted by participating states of the OSCE mission, Germany and France said.

The SMM, a civilian mission assigned to report impartially on the situation in Ukraine, has hundreds of monitors in the country’s east where the separatists are holding parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The mission said in March it was reintroducing its long-range drone program more than 18 months after it was halted due to repeated shoot-downs.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine persists despite cease-fire deals reached as part of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, and implementation of other measures set out in the deals has been slow.

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Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Follows Up on Its Lost Long-Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
(Source: OSCE; issued Oct 30, 2018)
KYIV --- On 27 and 28 October, the SMM followed up on its lost long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The UAV had gone missing on 27 October at night while it was flying over an area south-east of Nyzhnokrynske (non-government-controlled, 66km east of Donetsk) following a convoy of seven trucks near the border with the Russian Federation (see SMM Spot Report 27 October 2018).

The UAV had taken off at approximately 22:03 on 26 October from its launch site at Stepanivka (government-controlled, 54km north of Donetsk). At 01:18 on 27 October, the UAV had spotted a surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa) east of Nyzhnokrynske. At 01:53, the SMM had suddenly lost communication with the UAV near the same location, about 30 seconds after the UAV’s flight path had become unstable.

During these 30 seconds, the UAV lost its GPS signal, abruptly increased altitude by about 30 feet for a very brief moment and deviated from its heading, after which it immediately began tumbling down, rapidly losing altitude at a rate of approximately 4,800 feet per minute. At the same time, sudden changes in the UAV’s engine speed and flight controls input readings were recorded.

Prior to the loss of communication, the UAV had been flying in stable flight at an altitude of approximately 7,000 feet. The weather conditions were good with clear skies. All recorded flight parameters were normal and the UAV camera was recording.

According to a preliminary technical assessment, the most likely cause of the incident was an impact to the UAV which threw it off its flight path and disrupted the anti-jamming system and the payload power supply, and likely caused the UAV to crash. During its tumbling descent, before the communication was lost, additional systems of the UAV showed signs of failure.

On 27 and 28 October, the SMM pursued recovery efforts at presumed crash sites near Nyzhnokrynske close to the border. On 27 October, seven mini-UAV flights were conducted over an area south of Nyzhnokrynske and Serhiieve-Krynka (non-government-controlled, 69km east of Donetsk). The UAVs spotted multiple wheel tracks in a field about halfway between the aforementioned settlements. The SMM was not able to assess whether the tracks were fresh.

Eight people in Nyzhnokrynske separately told the SMM that they had heard an explosion in a southerly direction between 01:45-02:00 on 27 October. On 28 October, the Mission conducted three mini-UAV flights approximately 500m east of the area it had examined the day before. To date, the SMM has not been able to locate any debris of its UAV.

The SMM followed all the established pre-flight notification procedures and implemented all the relevant loss of long-range UAV protocols after communication and control of the UAV was no longer possible. The Mission has restarted long-range UAV operations following the required suspension period.

The Mission will continue to follow up.

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