After kidnapping them more than a month ago, pro-Russian separatists have released four people who had been on an observer mission for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), among them a Swiss.
Alexander Borodaj, the self-appointed leader of the separatist “People’s Republic of Donetsk” in eastern Ukraine, said the observers had been freed overnight Thursday and were staying in a Donetsk hotel.
In a written statement, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter – who is also OSCE president this year because of Switzerland’s 2014 leadership – expressed his thanks to all countries and organisations that worked to free the group of observers. But he also issued a reminder that a second four-person observer team remains missing in the region.
In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, Burkhalter had brought up the issue of freeing the OSCE observers, and the Russian leader said he would do what he could.
The OSCE has played an important role in trying to broker peace between pro-Russian separatist groups and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine since Russian troops annexed the Crimean peninsula in February, setting off conflict in the region. The organisation has created a roadmap to peace which includes high-level roundtable discussions, dialogues and plans for a cease-fire leading to a truce. Putin expressed his support for the plan on Wednesday in the meeting with Burkhalter.
According to the OSCE, which has some 250 observers working in Ukraine, the observer missions in the embattled Donetsk and Lugansk regions will continue but the number of observers there will be reduced because of security concerns.
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