Captive Ukraine Observers Paraded In Front Of Press

Pro-Russian protesters in Slaviansk have captured eight OSCE observers, and are holding seven of them hostage in hopes of a prisoner exchange.

Captive Ukraine Observers Paraded In Front Of Press
Twitter / @cjchivers

Pro-Russian rebels in the city of Slaviansk have released one of the eight international monitors being held in captivity.

Captured observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe were paraded before journalists Sunday. They were abducted Friday by pro-Russian gunman outside of Slaviansk. (Via Fox News)

The OSCE monitoring mission is tasked with implementing an agreement reached earlier this month which calls on armed groups in Ukraine to disband. The Ukrainian military is conducting an "anti-terrorist operation" to oust pro-Russian groups from seized government buildings.

The leader of the OSCE mission told reporters his group was unharmed and had been treated well. He phrased his captivity in diplomatic terms.

"We are not prisoners of war, we are the guests of Mayor Ponomaryev, and we are being treated as such." (Via The New York Times)

But Slaviansk's self-appointed mayor has different ideas about his "guests." "You understand, captives have always been an exchange currency during times of military conflict. It is an international practice to exchange prisoners of war." (Via  Euronews)

The Voice of Russia reports the one observer freed Sunday had medical issues which prompted the release. Diplomats are still trying to secure the release of the other seven captives.

Also Sunday, a pro-Russian military commander displayed three more hostages in worse conditions than the captured monitors. The men are allegedly members of the Ukrainian Special Forces who are accused of plotting against the separatists. (Via ITV)

Russia has joined the international community in working to free the  OSCE monitors from captivity. Britain's former ambassador to Russia told the BBC Russia's influence on the situation in Slaviansk has clearly diminished.

"The Russians have quite limited control over what's going on, or over the people who've seized buildings in eastern Ukraine, contrary to some claims from the West. ...  It's certainly not the Russians who are taking Western observers hostage."

During his trip to Asia, President Obama announced new sanctions on Russia for failing to help de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. Details of those sanctions are expected to be released Monday.