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OSCE observers held in Ukraine released

Pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine on Saturday released the seven OSCE military observers and five Ukrainian assistants who had been held for more than a week.

The observers were seized on April 25 in Slovyansk, as they travelled with an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer team. The insurgents said they possessed unspecified suspicious material and alleged they were spying for NATO.

An observer from Sweden was also seized as part of the team, but was released earlier.

Shortly before the release, the insurgents’ leader in Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying he ordered the release because of increasing insecurity in the city.

Two Ukrainian helicopters were reported shot down outside the city on Friday, killing two crew members and the Ukrainian Defence Ministry said two other soldiers were killed in a clash on the outskirts. Mr. Ponomarev said 10 local people were killed in a confrontation with soldiers on Slovyansk’s outskirts, but there was no independent confirmation.

Despite the release, tensions in Ukraine heightened sharply after at least 42 people died in clashes between government supporters and opponents in the Black Sea port of Odessa on Friday. The clash began with street fighting between the two sides, in which as least three people were reported killed by gunfire, then turned into a grisly conflagration when government opponents took refuge in a building that caught fire after protesters threw firebombs inside.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Saturday decried the Odessa deaths as evidence that the interim government in Kiev encourages nationalist extremists.

“Their arms are up to their elbows in blood,” Russian news agencies quoted Dmitry Peskov as saying.

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 6:45:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/osce-observers-held-in-ukraine-released/article5973154.ece

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