OSCE observers held in Ukraine released

An observer from Sweden was also seized as part of the team, but was released earlier

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Pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine on Saturday released the seven OSCE military observers and five Ukrainian assistants who had been held for more than a week.

The observers were seized on April 25 in the city of Slovyansk, the epicenter of eastern Ukraine's unrest, as they traveled with an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer team. The insurgents said they possessed unspecified suspicious material and alleged they were spying for NATO.


An observer from Sweden was also seized as part of the team, but was released earlier. Unlike the other observers' countries, Sweden is not a member of NATO.

One of the observers, German Col. Axel Schneider, told The Associated Press that all 12 of the detainees held up well.

"They had a very good attitude and that gave them the strength to stand the situation," he said.

Those held included three other Germans and one soldier each from Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Although Russia denies allegations that it is fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, where insurgents have seized government buildings in about a dozen cities and towns, it sent human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to negotiate for the release of the observers.

Lukin was quoted by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti as saying the release was "a voluntary humanitarian act."

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