European observers kidnapped in Ukraine freed

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists release seven military observers abducted last week in the eastern city of Slavyansk

Pro-Russian separatists release seven military observers abducted last week in the eastern city of Slavyansk

SLAVYANSK, Ukraine - Pro-Russian separatists controlling the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine have freed seven military observers from Europe who were abducted last week.

A spokesperson for the separatists said Saturday the move was intended as a "sign of goodwill."

A Swedish member of the monitoring team was released last Sunday on health grounds, a few hours following a press conference where the observers were shown to the media for the first time.

Separatist leader and the self-declared mayor of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev said the observers, who are linked to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, were his "guests".

Ponomarev had said during the press conference 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.

The members of the observer mission 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.

Head of the mission, Axel Schneider told journalists earlier said they were not informed on the state of the Ukrainian officials. A Russian official negotiating the observers' release, Vladimir Lukin said on Saturday "all 12 persons" on his list had been freed.

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