(Reuters) - A member of European security watchdog OSCE's monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine was killed and two others injured on Sunday after their vehicle drove over a mine near Luhansk, prompting calls for an investigation into the incident.
The unarmed, civilian OSCE mission with more than 700 international observers was deployed in 2014. The role of the monitors includes verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons as agreed under the 2015 ceasefire agreement.
An American man died and a German woman was injured in Sunday's incident, a Austrian foreign ministry spokesman said. Austria holds the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Germany's foreign ministry also said two people were injured, but gave no immediate details. The OSCE confirmed on Twitter that a patrol with six members and two armored vehicles had been in a "serious incident".
Alexander Hug, the SMM’s Principal Deputy Chief Monitor, told reporters that the second injured person was from Czech Republic and called on all sides in the conflict to implement obligations to remove all mines and other explosive devices.
"Sadly, particularly for our mission today, and for all civilians in the area, the commitments remain true only on paper," Hug said.
Three years after Moscow annexed the Crimean region, tensions between Ukraine and separatists in the Russian-held eastern part of the country remain high and a 2015 ceasefire is violated regularly.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was appalled and her government expected the parties to investigate and determine who was responsible.
"The conflict parties must also finally implement the long-agreed ceasefire," Merkel said in a statement. "And there, the Russia-supported separatists, who are illegally and violently occupying parts of Ukrainian territory bear a particular responsibility."
The Russian foreign ministry said the circumstances pointed to likely provocation aimed at undermining the peace process. It called for an impartial investigation and urged the parties to the conflict to intensify direct talks.
"We're deeply outraged by this cynical action, which led to the loss of human life and was directed against international observers who work for the sake of peace," the ministry said in a statement on its website.
The Ukrainian military said the incident took place at 10:17 local time (0317 ET) near the small village of Pryshyb, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was in everyone's interest to allow the OSCE observers to "carry out their important, indispensable, and at once difficult and dangerous work.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Twitter both called for an investigation of the incident. Kurz said he had spoken to the mission's ambassador, Ertugrul Apakan.
"Need thorough investigation; those responsible will be held accountable," Kurz said on Twitter.
A spokesman for the OSCE said further information would be released as it became available.
The 57 member states of the OSCE, which include Ukraine, Russia and the United States, in March extended its monitoring in Ukraine by a year.
Gabriel said the OSCE patrols had clearly prevented a more serious military escalation in recent years.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Andrea Shalal in Berlin and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)