World Bulletin/News Desk
Ukraine said on Tuesday that observers from a pan-European security body would travel at its invitation to the Crimea region, where Russian forces have taken control, in an attempt to defuse a military standoff.
"An OSCE mission has arrived in Kiev which will go to the Crimean peninsula to monitor the situation," Ukraine's national security chief, Andriy Paruby, told a news conference in Kiev.
He said the security situation on the Black Sea peninsula was "complicated but stable".
Several members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - including the United States - were set to send observers on the mission, tentatively scheduled to start on Wednesday and last a week, diplomatic sources at OSCE headquarters in Vienna said. They said the mission could be extended for longer.
It was not immediately clear whether Russia would allow monitors to enter the region, where it controls the airspace and access points. The diplomats said Russia's agreement was not legally necessary.
"They (Ukraine) plan to start the observation as a voluntary measure that they can host on their territory to visit the (military) facilities... to dispel concern," a Vienna-based diplomat accredited to the OSCE told Reuters.
President Vladimir Putin ordered troops involved in a military exercise in western Russia back to base on Tuesday in an announcement that appeared intended to ease East-West tension over fears of war in Ukraine.
But forces loyal to Moscow remained in control of Crimea, seized bloodlessly after Russian ally Viktor Yanukovich was ousted as Ukrainian president last month, and are surrounding military compounds of the Ukrainian army and navy.
A military observer operation would not need a special OSCE mandate because it is already covered by the so-called Vienna Document on confidence building measures and risk reduction.
"The invitation concerns the land territory of Crimea, for the time period of March 5-12, a maximum of two observers per country, and the reason is concern over Russia's military activity," a senior western diplomat said.
"Right now the invitation is specifically for Crimea but at the invitation of Ukraine they can also look elsewhere," another diplomat said.Last Mod: 04 Mart 2014, 13:21