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Russia calls for release of OSCE team in Ukraine

A pro-Russian armed man guards a check point outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 26, 2014. Seven members of an OSCE observer mission in Ukraine were seized by rebels today and being held in the eastern flashpoint town of Slavyansk, the interior ministry in Kiev said. AFP PHOTO / MAX VETROV

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday called for the release of an OSCE mission detained in Ukraine and vowed to do everything in its power to see them freed.

"We believe that these people should be released as soon as possible," the country's envoy to the pan-European security body, Andrei Kelin, told the state RIA Novosti news agency.

"As an OSCE member, Russia will take all possible steps in this case."

"We are unaware of what has happened to them or where they are at the moment. But like other OSCE members, we are very worried by what has happened."

Kelin added that responsibility for what happened lay with the Ukrainian authorities who had invited the mission.

Late Friday, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine had arrested 13 mission members, including the observers, their interpreter and driver. Four of the team are Germans, including three members of the German military.

Pro-Russian militants holding the group accused them of being "NATO spies" on Saturday and said they would continue to detain them.

The detention of the group sparked widespread international condemnation with the US and Europe demanding their release and US State Department insisted "there is a strong connection between Russia and these separatists".

 

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