WASHINGTON – Following the death on April 23 of a U.S. paramedic serving in the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) when his vehicle struck an explosive – likely a landmine – in separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Roger Wicker spoke on the Senate floor on the evening of April 24 to condemn the incident, express his condolences to the family of the victim, Joseph Stone, and call for the Russian government to end the cycle of violence that resulted in the tragedy.
“Had Russia lived up to the Minsk agreements, and ceased supporting, directing, funding, and fueling separatists in this region, there would have been no need for the [monitoring] mission to continue,” Sen. Wicker (R-Miss.) said.
“[The monitors] play an essential role in the understanding of the situation on the ground, often under extremely difficult circumstances… the tragic death of American Joseph Stone underscores the need for the OSCE monitors to have unfettered access across the frontlines and across the border regions controlled by the separatists,” he continued.
“I commend the Austrian foreign minister, who serves as OSCE chair-in-office, for calling attention to this tragedy and calling for an immediate investigation into these events. Those who are responsible … should be held accountable. Joseph Stone died serving his country by serving as a part of this international effort, and I extend my condolences this evening to his family and friends. I once again call on Russian leadership to put an end to the cycle of violence and to live up to its OSCE commitments,” Sen. Wicker concluded.
The SMM was established in 2014 to monitor implementation of the Minsk agreements designed to bring peace to eastern Ukraine. The SMM operates under a mandate adopted by consensus among the 57 OSCE participating states, including the United States, Russia and Ukraine.
Currently fielding roughly 700 monitors, nearly 600 of whom are in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the SMM is an unarmed, civilian mission that serves as the international community’s eyes and ears in the conflict zone. It is the only independent monitoring mission in the war zone. The United States supports the SMM and its monitors by providing roughly 75 personnel and other resources to the mission.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the federal government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries. The commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.