The European security organization responsible for monitoring the deadly conflict between government forces and Russia-backed militants in eastern Ukraine will reintroduce its long-range drone program more than a year and a half after it was dropped due to repeated shoot-downs.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) said in a statement that it will officially relaunch its drone surveillance program on March 28, near the government-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Kostiantynivka, according to RFE/RL.
The drones will help “augment and complement its monitoring activities and to overcome impediments to monitoring in eastern Ukraine”, it said.
Read alsoOSCE reports nearly 350 explosions in Donetsk region over weekendThe OSCE SMM long-range drone program was nixed in August 2016 after several of its drones were downed by rifle fire, surface-to-air missiles, and military-grade electronic jamming equipment.
The OSCE at the time did not assign responsibility for the drone downings, citing a lack of access to the crash sites, according to Foreign Policy magazine. But senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials said the Russia-backed militants had shot the drones down to conceal their actions.
The OSCE SMM’s Shiebel Camcopter S-100 drones, which could fly up to 150 kilometers, played a crucial role in spotting artillery attacks, troop advances, and the positioning of prohibited weapons – all violations of a 3-year-old cease-fire deal known as Minsk II, which has not ended the war.
The revival of the OSCE SMM’s long-range drone program comes amid reports suggesting the militants have employed what may be a new electronic-warfare system.
As UNIAN reported earlier, a drone video shot over the militant-held Horlivka was published March 20 by a Ukrainian NGO Come Back Alive, showing an electronic-warfare system the organization says has been brought from Russia. The system flashed a light toward the drone that caused it to temporarily lose control.