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MAINZ, Germany – German drones could soon fly over eastern Ukraine to monitor the ceasefire between government forces and separatist rebel fighters there, officials said. France and Germany are preparing to send their unmanned aircraft as part of the ongoing OSCE mission. The first soldiers from those countries arrived in Ukraine Tuesday to evaluate the conditions on the ground.
A spokesperson at Germany’s defense ministry told NBC News that a 14-person exploratory team had arrived alongside a French unit. The team included logistical, technical, and medical staff who will evaluate the possibility of stationing unarmed surveillance drones, such as the German LUNA, in the region. The LUNA has been used in similar missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
“The exploratory team will be unarmed and in OSCE uniforms,” the spokesperson said. Risks remain given that OSCE observers had been taken hostage by pro-Russian rebels in the past.
The German soldiers are evaluating a region near the city of Luhansk, which had seen heavy fighting between Ukrainian government forces and separatist fighters in recent months. Use of the drones would still require a political mandate from Germany’s government.