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VIENNA (Reuters) - European security watchdog OSCE on Thursday prolonged its monitoring mission to Ukraine by one year until March 2018.
Three years after Moscow annexed the Crimean region, tensions between Ukraine and separatists in the Russian-held area are still high and a 2015 ceasefire agreement is violated regularly.
Fighting has claimed the lives of at least 20 civilians since the start of the year, and wounded over 91 more, according to the United Nations.
The 57 member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which include Ukraine, Russia and the United States, decided by consensus to extend the mandate of the mission until 31 March 2018, the OSCE said in a statement.
The unarmed, civilian mission with more than 700 international observers seeks to reduce tensions and report on the situation on the ground.
In recent weeks, the observers have reported a deteriorating security situation in eastern Ukraine and an increase in the number of ceasefire violations.
The mission was first deployed in 2014 and is extended for the third time. It will have a budget of 105.5 million euros ($113.2 million), which should provide for better equipment for the staff.
Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who chairs the OSCE until the end of the year, has called for thermal imaging cameras and other equipment upgrades.
Reporting by Kirsti Knolle