May Day celebrations went ahead as usual in parts of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, an area largely under the control of armed separatists.
Residents of Slovyansk showed their support for the forthcoming referendum on secession from Ukraine by marching and dancing through the city centre holding anti-Kyiv banners.
“I will definitely attend their referendum on May 11,” said one Slovyansk resident. “And I will say ‘yes’ to independence for the Donetsk National Republic.”
“The programme that (acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr) Turchynov imposes on us from Kyiv is not a proper one,” added another local. “One can hang oneself with this kind of programme. Utilities and everything are becoming more expensive.”
OSCE mediators were no closer to securing the release of seven observers following talks on Wednesday.
Self-proclaimed Mayor of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov insists they are guests, rather than hostages.
“We have an agreement that we will not speak about our positions until we have come to a decision,” he said. “So we don’t have any problems.”
Four of those being held are German. On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask him for help to free the hostages from Slovyansk, a town controlled entirely by armed, pro-Russian rebel fighters.