ICRC workers released after spying accusations

Fighting has intensified in Ukraine's east in recent days Keystone

Several Red Cross workers, including one Swiss, were detained by pro-Russian militants on Friday night in Ukraine, accused of spying. They were released early Saturday morning after being held for seven hours.

This content was published on May 10, 2014 - 12:31 and agencies

An ICRC spokesperson confirmed on Saturday that eight Ukrainians and one Swiss had been held in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

They were released at two o‘clock in the morning. One member of the group had been heavily beaten and was taken to hospital.

Novosti Donbassa, an online newspaper, said that a large amount of medicine had also been taken by the activists from the Red Cross building in Donetsk.

A spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, which wants the region to join Russia, could not confirm where the workers had been held by the militants or give any more details on the reasons behind their detention, aside from confirming they had been suspected of espionage.

There has been intense fighting in the city over the past few days, as pro-Kremlin separatists and Ukrainian security forces have squared up to each other in the run-up to a referendum to be held on Sunday.

The armed rebels have planned the vote for eastern Ukraine to decide if it will follow Crimea in breaking away from Kiev.

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