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Former Observer: OSCE covered up casualties in Eastern Ukraine

OSCE-observatør i Østukraine, Kai Vittrup, fortæller han fik instruktioner i at rapportere for lave civile tabstal af sin ledelse. Det skete på Helsinki Komiteens event på Folkemødet 2016.

Det officielle tal er i dag ca. 10.000, mens et mere realistisk tal er fire gange så højt.


The OSCE wanted to hide the actual number of casualties of the war in Eastern Ukraine, Kai Vittrup, former observer for the OSCE for the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) said.

Vittrup, a highly respected seasoned Danish Chief of Police (ret) previously served in monitoring missions for the UN in over a decade in war zones like Afghanistan and former Yugoslavia.Commissioned for the OSCE in 2014 Vittrup served as an observer for about seven months in the areas of Lugansk and Donetsk.

In a presentation hosted by the Helsinki Committee at the Danish Democracy Festival (Folkemøde), he presented harsh criticism of OSCE’s work in regards to planning, execution and a politicized environment.

Vittrup told that the OSCE did not inform the local population about the tasks and mandate of the SMM, so they did not know why his group was there.The mandate of SMM’ is to observe and report and Vittrup visited shelled residential areas in Donetsk and Lugansk to observe the damages and casualties. He made the point, that only on a single occasion he considered it likely that separatist forces had fired from the residential area, triggering the response of Kyiv shelling.

People who thought Vittrup was from NATO or EU they were hostile, so his group needed protection from form the separatist government forces.

During the mission, he repeatedly found himself in situations where locals begged him to stop the war. At one time his team was called to a school that was shelled on “first school day” leaving three people dead, and parents, teachers and children hiding in the basement. “There was a smell of fear, and fear does smell”, Vittrup said.

Upon request from the separatist government, Vittrup also assisted in prisoner swaps between the separatist and Kyiv forces, although the OSCE SMM did not sanction this. He noted that separatists allowed their prisoners to make private calls to their family, to tell them they were alive and well and on their way home.

OSCE covered up casualties

While the mandate of the OSCE mission was to observe and report, Vittrup said that the mission’s leadership was unhappy with the high number of casualties he reported, so he got new instructions.

“We had to report the number of dead bodies present upon our arrival [after shelling]”, Vittrup said, “If we were to do that, the number would be unrealistic and way below the actual”.

Unhappy with this decision Vittrup decided to visit morgues. “I can assure you, that I have seen a lot. But I have never seen so many dead bodies in one place. I will spare you the details. It is not pleasant. I have never seen so many. If you watch World War II footage of stacked bodies, you get a sense of the scene”, he said.

Vittrup took pictures and sent them to the OSCE but they told him to stop. The reality of the situation made them uncomfortable, Vittrup concluded.  

Kai Vittrup, former OSCE observer speaking at Danish Folkemøde, July 16th, 2016

Real body count disputed bloody war

The official number of total casualties in the aftermath of the February 2014 EuroMaidan coup d’état in known as “Revolution of Dignity” in the West is about 10.000 according to UN. Various sources close to events estimates the real number to be at least 3 to 4 times higher.

Commander of Donetsk Peoples Republic (DNR) brigade battalion “Legion” and a deputy of the National Council, Zavdoveev Sergey, said that he estimated that about 4.000 Ukrainian troops were killed in the battle for Debaltsevo alone, which took place immediately after the second peace plan, known as Minsk 2 was signed. завдов Commander of battalion “Legion” of DNR, Zavdoveev Sergey, Foto: Ipressen

At first President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, said that there were no casualties and only 37 wounded servicemen in the same battle and that Ukrainian forces had made a “controlled withdrawal” from the city. Later the official number of Ukrainian casualties were set at 237 but even in pro-Kyiv media it is recognized that the actual number is much higher.

The official losses on Ukrainian military side since the war began totals less than 3.000 in pro-Kyiv media, and of those, only a little more than half is recorded as killed during combat. The rest of the official deaths are due to suicide, murder, accidents, drug overdoses and other causes not related directly to combat. Commander Zavdoveev, said that Kyiv covers up casualties changing KIAs as “deserters”. “If they write off the casualties as deserters, Kyiv does not have to pay pensions to the relatives”, he explained. He also said that the volunteer battalions fighting on Kyiv side are not registered anywhere, so their casualties do not count in any statistics.

Negative perception of OSCE

Talking to people in Donetsk the criticism of OSCE is direct and outspoken. “If they are trying to do any job at all I think they are lazy or blind”, an activist of the Free Donbass Party, told me. “In cooperation with the OSCE we investigated and documented unprovoked shelling of civilians. We determined the caliber and the direction, thus we were able to show this was done by Kiyv-side but the OSCE didn’t report anything”, she said.

Chairman of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture in DNR, Miroslav V. Rudenko, is even more direct in his criticism. Referring to five killed by shelling while waiting to cross a DNR checkpoint, he lashed out at the West saying, “It is typical of the Western media and OSCE to side with the Ukrainian Nazis”.

At the frontline, many consider OSCE as outright spies and the SMM reports frequently contains restrictions of movement for the monitors in breach of the mission’s mandate. In July Russian security service, FSB, detained a Ukrainian citizen in Russia for spying on behalf of Ukraine while working for the OSCE as a translator. As he had not broken Russian law he was released but this event only furthers the mistrust to the OSCE mission.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has suggested OSCE monitors are armed with weapons for self-defense, also supported by it’s Western allies. Asked about this scenario, Commander Zavdoveev Sergey replied: “In that case I have room in my prison and my collection [of seized weapons] will be bigger”.

By Jesper Larsen

Arkiveret version