Published On: Tue, Apr 29th, 2014

Captured Soldiers Not OSCE Observers as Claimed: Germany and Russia Held Talks

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : The eight captured men in the Ukrainian city Slaviansk are not OSCE observers, affirmed OSCE official Claus Neukirch. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Monday, to discuss Moscow’s possibilities to intervene on behalf of the 4 German, 1 Danish, 1 Polish, 1 Czech and 1 Swedish soldiers who were arrested in civilian clothing, in a vehicle displaying the OSCE name. The men are being accused of espionage.

Axel Schneider. Capture German soldier from the German Federal Defense Forces Center for Verification Tasks.

Axel Schneider. Captured German soldier from the German Federal Defense Forces Center for Verification Tasks.

The Reuters news agency reports that Steinmeier and Lavrov discussed the detention of the eight men on Monday, while Reuters falsely designates them “observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe”.

The Russian Foreign Ministry gave no further details, other than that the talk was a German initiative. Earlier on Monday, Germany urged Moscow to do do what it can to discuss the captured soldiers release from Slaviansk.

It is noteworthy that the initial negotiations about the captured soldiers exclusively were managed via the German Ministry of Defense.

In a subsequent press conference it was announced that one of the eight, a Swedish soldier, had been released due to considerations about his health. Axel Schneider, who is one of the four German soldiers from the Center for Verification Tasks in Geilenkirchen, Germany, said: (direct not-corrected transcript)

“We are now since days here in the city in the hands of the mayor of this town. WE have not been touched and we have not been treated…at the maximum extend which is possible under these circumstances. We have no indication when we will be sent home to our countries and to see our families”.

The Center for Verification Tasks is maintaining the German Federal Defense Forces verification tasks with respect to armament control agreements. The center carries out its work in cooperation with the German Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense. nsnbc has tried throughout the morning of 29 April to call the center but the telephone appears to be “off the hook”.

Where the four German soldiers on official duty and if so, is it correct that they were driving in a vehicle marked OSCE, and in plain, civilian clothing. Why were they accompanied by armed Ukrainian soldiers, and why were armed Ukrainian soldiers travelling with them in the vehicle with OSCE markings?

Moreover, as German soldiers on official duty, should they not have worn their uniform? So far, we have not succeeded in attaining more detailed information about the Swedish, Danish, Czech and Polish soldiers. German Defense Minister von der Leyen was visiting the Center for Verification Tasks on April 28.

OSCE Rejects Claims that the Eight Soldiers are OSCE Observers. Western mainstream media as well as US, German, and other EU member states officials continue describing the captured men as OSCE observers. That, despite the fact that the OSCE rejects the claim.

The OSCE stressed that the eight soldiers were not working for they OSCE. The soldiers are in Ukraine, as military observers, under a bilateral agreement made on the basis of an OSCE document. In an interview, broadcast by the Austrian TV Channel ORF, OSCE Spokesman Claus Neukirch said:

“But I also have to say, that they, to be exact, are not working for the OSCE, but that they are military observers who are active there (Ukraine) under a bilateral agreement based on an OSCE document. We have, parallel to them, also an OSCE-mission, an observer mission, that already has over 125 civilian observers in the country, including that region”.

The situation is, in other words, as follows: Eight soldiers were sent to Ukraine under a bilateral agreement; The agreement is a “parallel agreement” to the agreement about the OSCE observer mission. 4 of the capture soldiers are German, serving at the Center for Verification Tasks. The others are from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Czech Republic and Poland.

These eight soldiers have been deployed on the basis of a bilateral agreement. Judging by the composition of the team, by the fact that Germany has led the negotiations, and by the fact that German Foreign Minister Steinmeier contacted his counterpart in Moscow to ask for help, this bilateral agreement is one between Germany and the post-coup government in Kiev. The bilateral agreement was most probably based on the OSCE’s Vienna Declaration.

Accusations Claims and Questions.

Accusations, that “pro-Russian separatists” have captured “OSCE observers” are false. Such accusations can only be considered as an attempt to cover-up the facts about the soldiers, their mission, and their actual status. These false accusations and claims are also an attempt to position anti-coup, pro-referendum, and pro-federalization protesters as “militant pro-Russian separatists”.

There are a number of questions which must be answered before it is possible to say anything really meaningful about the situation. These questions are:

Does a bilateral agreement between Germany and a government in Kiev, which illegally seized power on February 21, have any standing according to international law?

Does that bilateral agreement between Germany and the post-coup government in Kiev, even if it is based on “an OSCE document” authorize the eight soldiers from Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic and Poland to use a vehicle that is designated as OSCE vehicle?

Is it legal, according to international laws as well as according to German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish,Czech, Polish and Ukrainian law for active duty military officers to carry out official tasks while wearing civilian attire?

Are the accusations, made by those who captured and detained them, that they are spies, supported by national laws or by international law? It is these questions we have tried to ask the Centrum für Verifikations Aufgaben since early morning April 29. As of 12.41 CET their telephone is still off the hook.

Ch/L – nsnbc 29.04.2014 – 11:42 CET

Read more, in our in depth coverage of the events in and around Ukraine, with news, analysis, and opinion, in nsnbc international – your daily independent.

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and independent political consultant on conflict and conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. His work with traumatized victims of conflict has led him to also pursue the work as political consultant. He is a lifelong activist for peace and justice, human rights, Palestinians rights to self-determination in Palestine, and he is working on the establishment of international institutions for the prosecution of all war crimes, also those committed by privileged nations. On 28 August 2011 he started his blog nsnbc, appalled by misrepresentations of the aggression against Libya and Syria. In March 2013 he turned nsnbc into a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at nsnbc.wordpress@gmail.com

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  1. This does not sound very logical: When they needed they plugged Walker who was efficient in earlier extermination of Sandinistas in Nicaragua as the key OSCE observer on Kosovo, with the ambassador (US) titles. The question now is why would not they repeat the technology now? Maybe less chance to pass unnoticed in OSCE?

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