Photo from UNIAN

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.

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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.