Rebels in eastern Ukraine have released four out of eight international observers kidnapped last month.
The monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were freed by members of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic at a hotel in the city.
The other four remain in captivity in neighbouring Luhansk region.
It is hoped that what is described as a goodwill gesture could help resolve the conflict:
“We don’t expect anything in return. We freed them without any demands. We hope that the international community will understand us,” said Alexander Borodai, “prime minister” of the self-proclaimed republic, a Russian who has fended off allegations that he is working for Moscow.
Pro-Russian separatists are said to have seized a military base in Donetsk – there are no reports of injuries – and to have attacked a checkpoint in Slovyansk. One soldier is reported killed in that attack.
The Interfax news agency says pro-Russian separatists have agreed to take part in more peace talks on Friday with international members of the so-called “contact group”.
It comes as a ceasefire dating from last Monday is due to expire. President Poroshenko has said he may not extend it if he thinks the rebels only want to buy time.
The UN says it thinks more than 400 people have been killed in the fighting.