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Anxious to go home, says detained observers in Ukraine

Posted on Apr 28 2014 | IANS

Kiev, April 27 : A group of eight international military observers appeared for the first time in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk Sunday, two days after they were detained by pro-Russian activists.

The eight observers, all Europeans, were part of a 12-member military verification team deployed by the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in eastern Ukraine.

Pro-Russia activists did not bring the other four members, who are Ukrainian military officers, to a press conference in the city's administration building.

Axel Schneider from Germany, leader of the observer mission, said all of them were in good health, but anxious to be allowed to go home soon, Xinhua reported Sunday.

"We have no indication when we will be sent home to our countries. We wish from the bottom of our hearts to go back to our nations as soon and as quickly as possible," Xinhua quoted Schneider as saying, as armed men in camouflage fatigues looked on.

The group came to Slaviansk without weapons and were strictly in line with their mandate under the OSCE rules, he added.

Schneider said the military observers were "captured" Friday around 4 km outside the city as they were about to return to the regional hub city of Donetsk.

The group was sent to Ukraine last month to monitor political and security situation in the country following pro-Russian protests in its eastern region.

Pro-Russian fighters claimed that an Ukrainian spy was travelling with the group.

A spokesperson for the fighters said Saturday they had not ruled out releasing the detained observers in exchange for the release of their own men.

Slaviansk has become a flash point in the conflict between pro-Russian protestors and Ukrainian authorities in the eastern part of the country, where pro-Russian fighters have occupied a string of towns.

The OSCE said it has sent a negotiating team to the city to try to secure the entire team's release.

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