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Ukraine crisis: OSCE confirms observers stopped from entering Crimea

Published on Mar 6, 2014 10:34 PM
 
Russian forces block access to the base of the 36th detached brigade of the Ukrainian Navy's coastal guards, not far from the village of Perevalne, near Simferopol on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe confirmed on Thursday that its military observers have been prevented from entering Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula Crimea. -- PHOTO: AFP

VIENNA (AFP) - The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe confirmed Thursday that its military observers have been prevented from entering Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula Crimea.

"We can now confirm that the military verification/observers were indeed prevented from entering Crimean territory," spokeswoman Natacha Rajakovic said.

"They are on their way back to (the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson), where they will hold a meeting and decide on next steps," Rajakovic said via email.

Earlier a Western diplomatic source told AFP that gunmen were preventing the team of 40 military observers from 21 of the organisation's 57 members from entering Crimea.

"They are stuck but they are not turning back. They are not being allowed in by two groups of armed people - very professional, very well-trained," the source said.

The source added that the standoff began at around 1100 GMT and quoted the gunmen as saying "they were told not to let in a group but they were not sure if this was the one".

The unarmed observer mission is aimed at defusing tensions in Crimea, which was taken over by Russian forces over the weekend.