Military OSCE observers captured by anti-Kiev activists in Slavyansk on April 25 have been released and delivered to Donetsk. Most of them have flown to Berlin.
A German government plane carrying seven of the freed OSCE observers, four of whom are German, landed at Berlin’s Tegel Airport at around 9 p.m. local time, Bild reports. They were welcomed by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
Earlier on Saturday the Russian president's representative Vladmir Lukin said that "All 12 people I have on the list were freed."
Last week, the military observers were captured by anti-Kiev protesters who accused them of espionage. Earlier one of the detained - a Swedish officer suffering from diabetes - was released.
Lukin stressed the release of the observers wasn't a bargain. "It was a voluntary humanitarian act, and we're very grateful for it to those controlling the city," he said.
Lukin has delivered the OSCE observers to Donetsk and they have met with representatives of the Council of Europe, according to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the OSCE.
“As soon as they are transferred to the representatives of the Council of Europe, we’ll be able to say that the mission is over,” Lukin said earlier.
On the way to Donetsk their car came under fire, but all of them are fine, one of Lukin’s colleagues, who was with the observers in Slavyansk, Evgeny Kozhokin, told RIA Novosti.
The OSCE observers were treated well in captivity, Col. Igor
Turansky, head of the Ukrainian military mission to the OSCE,
said after arriving at Kiev airport from Donetsk.
“There are no injuries, all was well. [We were] given food, water, sleep, treated well,” he said, as quoted by Interfax-Ukraine.
He noted that the self-defense forces said they detained the observers because they “did not coordinate their actions with the representatives of the locals.” Turansky added that the self-defense troops wanted to know the purpose of the observers' visit. According to him, the detained Ukrainian officers were treated the same as the OSCE observers.
Kiev authorities jeopardized the lives of the OSCE observers who were in Slavyansk, said Maria Zaharova, head of the press department of Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
“More or less prepared analysts did not doubt the fact that these military observers were deployed to Slavyansk by the Ukrainian side and their known sponsors to create a new source of tension to escalate the crisis and to directly involve the European countries in the domestic conflict,” Zaharova told RIA Novosti.
“The Kiev junta did not only think about the observers’ security, but put their lives at direct risk by starting the punitive operation against the civilians in Slavyansk,” she added.
The conflict resolution carried out by the self-defense forces during the operation saved the lives of the foreigners, she added.
The interim Ukrainian government was supporting the mission carried out by Vladimir Lukin, including aid in establishing contacts and coordinating activities at a central administration level, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry stated, as quoted by Interfax news agency.
“Vladimir Lukin was advised of a safe way from Donetsk to Slavyansk, with transportation. The Ukrainian security forces insist on this, being responsible for the lives of both the observers and the negotiators,” the statement said.
Vladimir Lukin is Russia's official envoy to Ukraine. He initially had difficulties in entering Slavyansk as the Ukrainian army and the Right Sector militants refused him access to the city.
The Kiev government was initially reluctant to support the mission.
“We get the impression that the Kiev administration views the mission as something handicapping their plans to start the attack on Slavyansk in the coming hours,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.