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Ukraine: OSCE confirms release of European military observers in Slovyansk

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Ukraine: OSCE confirms release of European military observers in Slovyansk
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The remaining seven European military observers held by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk have been freed.

Reports say five Ukrainians with them have also been released.

“We can now confirm the release of the military observers,” said a spokeswoman for the OSCE, under whose auspices the military verification officers led by German defence ministry staff were in Ukraine, at Ukraine’s request.

The news was first announced by Russia’s envoy to the town. Vladimir Lukin said all those on his list had been freed.

The Council of Europe said the observers would be handed over by Lukin to its Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

The pro-Russian self-declared mayor of Slovyansk said there were no conditions attached, adding that the group from the OSCE had been his “guests”. Vyacheslav Ponomaryov said the move was voluntary and made to coincide with his birthday.

A Swedish monitor suffering from health problems was let go earlier.

The observers, including four Germans, were abducted by pro-Russian separatists a week ago and accused of spying.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said that their release would ease tensions in the region.

Their abduction was one of the reasons cited by the Ukrainian government for its new military offensive against separatists in the east.