Pro-Russian separatists free military monitor

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Separatists say a Swedish observer has been freed on health grounds

Separatists say a Swedish observer has been freed on health grounds

SLAVYANSK, Ukraine – A military observer from a team of seven abducted on Friday by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk has been released.

The Swedish member of the team was freed Sunday, just a few hours after the monitoring group were shown for the first time to the media at a press conference.

The separatists -- led by the self-declared mayor of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav  Ponomarev -- said they let the observer go as he had diabetes.

The rest of the observers, who are linked to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, were being treated as Ponomarev’s "guests," the self-styled mayor said during a press conference earlier Sunday.

He said he was ready to free the team in exchange for the release of his armed supporters arrested by forces loyal to the government in Kiev.

A delegation from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are meeting with Ponomarev in Slavyansk in the hope of securing the observers' release.

- Observers 'not captives'

The head of the observer group, Axel Schneider, told journalists that the monitors did not see themselves as captives, but did not know when they would be freed or on what terms.

He said the group members were not intelligence operatives and were unarmed, but were running the observing mission with a diplomatic status.

He said they agreed to hold a press conference so that their families could see them.

The observers held by the pro-Russians are from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

They were abducted on their way from Kramatorsk to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine along with five Ukrainian military officials.

Schneider said they had not been informed about the state of the Ukrainian officials.

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