MOSCOW: Ukrainian security forces have released two Russian television journalists working for a defence ministry outlet after they were detained at a checkpoint in the rebellion-hit east of the country, the channel said Monday.
The journalists from Russia's Zvezda, or Star channel -- sound operator Anton Malyshev and cameraman Andrei Sushenkov -- were arrested Friday by Ukraine's National Guard "on suspicion of monitoring and collecting information" of government operations close to the rebel bastion of Slavyansk.
Their release follows a demand from Russia's foreign ministry Saturday for Kiev to free the two reporters and "cease lawless acts towards teams of Russian and foreign journalists."
The ministry said the journalists' detention caused "bafflement" since it came as "glimmers of hope are appearing for a de-escalation of the conflict in southeastern Ukraine."
Ukraine's new Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko said on Sunday that fighting in the separatist east of the ex-Soviet country must stop by the end of the week after a meeting with Russia's envoy.
Journalists have been targeted by all sides in the conflict during the nearly two months of bloodshed in the east, with Ukrainian and Western reporters also being held by pro-Russian rebels.
Ukrainian troops in May detained two Russian journalists from a pro-Kremlin website and television channel Life News in the same region, later claiming they were transporting anti-aircraft missiles in their cars.
The Life News reporters were freed a week later following the intervention of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The Kremlin awarded the journalists medals for valour.