By Erik Wasson - 03/19/14 01:47 PM EDT
Senators demand OSCE monitors in Ukraine
Russia on Wednesday blocked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from sending peace monitors into Ukraine but a bipartisan group of senators said the organization should keep pushing to get involved.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent the letter to OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, along with seven other lawmakers who traveled to Ukraine last week: Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
“We write to urge the immediate deployment of OSCE civilian monitors to eastern, southern and other potentially unstable regions of Ukraine to report on security and human rights conditions on the ground and to help defuse tensions,” the letter states.
“Russia’s further use of provocateurs and intelligence agents to brazenly stir trouble in eastern Ukraine must be exposed and monitored so as to not provide Russia a manipulated pretext for additional military action in Ukraine,” the senators said.
An Senate aide said the lawmakers are not currently urging OSCE to abandon the consensus model that has allowed Russia to block monitors. But the senators note that Russian officials have expressed openness to the idea of a monitoring mission even if specifics are holding up an OSCE deal.
The Senate letter comes as Russia is moving Wednesday to consolidate its military control of the Ukrainian region of Crimea which Russian President Vladimir Putin formally annexed on Tuesday.