The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has identified a U.S. monitor killed in a landmine blast in eastern Ukraine as Joseph Stone.
Stone, an American paramedic, was traveling in a car that hit a mine near rebel-held Luhansk Sunday. Two other monitors were injured in the incident.
The injured monitors, a female from Germany and male from the Czech Republic, are in stable condition, the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine wrote on Twitter. It said Stone’s body was recovered and was transported to a government-controlled area in Ukraine.
Austria’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the location of the incident as near the small village of Pryshyb. Austria currently holds the OSCE’s rotating presidency.
According to reports, the vehicle drove over a mine in territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.
A rebel statement said the OSCE team was traveling along an unsafe road. “We know that the mentioned crew deviated from the main route and moved along side roads, which is prohibited by the mandate of the OSCE SMM,” local media reported.
The incident marks the first loss of life for the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
The OSCE has 600 members in eastern Ukraine, and is the only independent monitoring mission in the destroyed industrial war zone. It provides daily reports on the war and has angered insurgents for accusing them of being responsible for most truce agreement violations.
During the past three years tensions between Ukraine and separatists in the rebel-held eastern parts of the country have persisted. A 2015 cease-fire agreement is repeatedly violated.
At least 9,750 people have been killed in the war in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. More than 40 died during the first two months of this year, when hostilities suddenly surged.