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Kidnapped observers freed in Ukraine

Meanwhile, more than 130 people have been arrested in the port city of Odessa following more than 30 deaths there yesterday.

The head of foreign military observers, German Col. Axel Schneider, left, embraces Vacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, after he has been feed in Slovyansk.
The head of foreign military observers, German Col. Axel Schneider, left, embraces Vacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, after he has been feed in Slovyansk.
Image: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP/Press Association Images

THE OSCE TEAM captured by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine was freed today after more than a week of captivity in the flashpoint town of Slavyansk.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe confirmed the release of the seven European military observers on its official Twitter feed.

Earlier Russian news agencies had quoted President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy as saying that “all the 12 people who are on my list have been freed”.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the envoy, Vladimir Lukin, spoke of 12 detainees.

The original team of monitors captured on 25 April comprised eight Europeans and five Ukrainians accompanying them.

One of the Ukrainians – thought to be the driver – was swiftly released.

Later, one of the Europeans, a Swede, was freed on medical grounds as he suffers from diabetes.

“This was a goodwill humanitarian act and we are very grateful to the masters of the city,” Lukin was quoted as saying.

“We would like this to be followed by other humanitarian acts including the cessation of gunfights,” he said, adding he was hoping the conflicting parties would also sit down at the negotiating table.

The release came a day after Ukraine’s army mounted an offensive on Slavyansk that claimed at least nine lives, including four servicemen.

The West has been pushing hard for the release of the men, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying on Friday it was an “important step” in de-escalating the crisis.

Meanwhile,  more than 130 people have been arrested in the port city of Odessa following more than 30 deaths there yesterday.

© – AFP 2014

Read: More than 30 killed in ‘criminal’ fire in Ukraine

More: “We will not stop”: Strong message from Ukraine as army action continues

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