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Monday 15 September 2014

Ukraine crisis: OSCE observers freed as Ukrainian army mounts dawn raids against pro-Russian separatists in Kramatorsk

International hostages freed hours after Ukrainian army seizes television tower on outskirts of pro-Russian stronghold

Published 03/05/2014 | 13:11

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Pro-Russian separatists have freed seven international military observers in eastern Ukraine, according to Russian media.

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The observers, associated with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), were captured in the town of Sloviansk on 25 April.

This morning pro-Russian separatist leader Vyacheslav Ponomaryo confirmed that seven observers and five Ukrainian officers had been released.

They had been accused of espionage by anti-Kiev protesters and were held as “prisoners of war”, according to Ponomaryo.

The news comes after Ukrainian forces staged a dawn raid against a rebel stronghold in the town of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, seizing a television tower on the outskirts of the city.

Last night Ukraine’s interior minister Arsem Avakov vowed that they “will not stop”.

"Overnight, forces participating in the anti-terrorist operation in Kramatorsk took control of the TV tower that was previously held by the terrorists," he added.

Kramatorsk lies about 17 kilometres (10 miles) south of the city of Slovyansk, which was the centre of a major Ukrainian-led offensive against Russian separatists on Friday.

Last week, Russian officials said the clashes in Slovyansk had destroyed last month’s Geneva Pact intended to defuse the crisis.

Last week the interim government in Kiev reintroduced military conscription, in response to what the government views as an intensifying security threat from Russia.

It is understood that Russia is believed to have some 40,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.

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