- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A bipartisan group of senators has written a letter to the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urging the security cooperative to deploy civilian monitors to potentially unstable areas of Ukraine “to report on security and human rights conditions on the ground and to help defuse tensions.”

“We just returned from Ukraine and are deeply concerned about events that are transpiring as well as the broader implications for European security should Russia’s actions go unchecked,” the senators wrote. “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 letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehorse of Rhode Island and GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Barrasso of Wyoming, and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

The seven senators traveled to Ukraine over the weekend to examine the quickly-developing situation with Crimea and Russia. As pro-Russian forces stormed a Ukrainian naval base in the breakaway region of Crimea, Vice President Joseph R. Biden warned Wednesday that Russia would pay a price for “naked aggression.”

The senators point out that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk already called for foreign observers from the OSCE on March 16, the same day OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Didier Burkhalter urged “participating states to act responsibly and work with full speed in the spirit of cooperation towards consensus on a monitoring mission and its rapid deployment, leading to an enhanced presence of the OSCE in Ukraine.”

There are 57 participating states in the consortium, including the United States, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation.

“Russia has also supported the idea of deploying an OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, including Crimea,” the senators wrote. “We must seize upon these openings to quickly deploy such monitors to help prevent any further violence and Russian violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.”

“The OSCE has an important mandate to address security-related concerns, including confidence and security-building measures, human rights, and national minorities – a mandate perfectly suited to address escalating problems in Ukraine,” they concluded. “The Ukrainian people deserve peace and security without military threats from Russia as they work to rebuild their democratic governing institutions and economy. The strong reputation of the OSCE is ideally suited to help ensure the space needed to see these important processes go forward.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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