In Ukraine the remaining seven European military observers held by pro-Russian separatists in Slovyansk have been freed, along with five Ukrainians.
“We can now confirm the release of the military observers,” said a spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), under whose auspices the military verification officers led by German defence ministry staff were in the country, 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.
One of the group said he was grateful for the efforts made to secure their release.
“This is unforgettable for us. Never ever I will forget that,” Germana colonel Axel Schneider said, speaking in English.
“Were you treated well while you were in captivity?” he was asked by a reporter.
“According to the word given by the mayor, we have been treated as good as possible. This is a miserable situation, but we were under his protection,” Schneider replied.
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.
It was one of the reasons cited by the Ukrainian government for its military offensive launched on Friday against separatists in the east.