Observers''prisoners of war': Ukraine rebels

2014-04-27 13:41
(Sergey Gapon, AFP)

(Sergey Gapon, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Slavyansk - Pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels holding an international team of observers from the OSCE said on Sunday they are "prisoners of war".

Self-declared mayor of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov told a small group of reporters, including AFP, that the team was being kept in the town hall, but did not permit media access to them.

He added that the group's driver, who had been seized with them on Friday, had been released, bringing the number of detainees in the OSCE military verification mission to 12: Eight Europeans and four accompanying members of the Ukrainian army.

"They are prisoners of war," Ponomaryov repeated several times.

"In our town, where a war situation is going on, any military personnel who don't have our permission are considered prisoners of war."

He repeated that they would only be freed in exchange for Kiev's authorities releasing arrested pro-Moscow militants.

'Guests, not hostages'

And he stressed that the rebels did not consider the detained men part of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring mission deployed in Ukraine.

The OSCE headquarters in Vienna has said the military verification mission is a separate unit headed by German command.

"I can't say that they aren't taking sides in events here, because the United States and Nato are delivering weapons and sending [military] trainers" to Kiev, and foreign private security firms were active, Ponomaryov claimed.

Ponomaryov, who was wearing a pistol in a holster and escorted by two armed bodyguards, did not say why the seized group were being kept in the town hall instead of the SBU secret services building the rebels are also occupying in the town.

He did claim, though, that the OSCE observers "are not our hostages - they are our guests".

The rebel leader said all the detainees "are doing well" and confirmed that a team of negotiators from the OSCE would be arriving in Slavyansk later on Sunday to discuss the situation of the group being held.

No contact with Kiev

Asked about Russia's promise to do everything it could to convince the pro-Kremlin rebels in Slavyansk to release the OSCE military observers, Ponomaryov said: "I have no direct contact with Moscow".

Ponomaryov also said that rebel had "arrested" three Ukrainian officers - a colonel, a major and a captain - he said had been sent towards Slavyansk on a spying mission.

"There were a total of seven in their group and we arrested three of them. We will swiftly get the four others," he said.

The three captured officers were being kept in Slavyansk.

The rebel mayor said there would be no contact with Kiev over the imprisoned Ukrainians because the insurgents see the capital's Western-backed government as illegitimate.

"There will be no contact with Kiev, only through the intermediary of the OSCE," he said. Ukraine's authorities, he said, "understand only the language of force".

Slavyansk has become the epicentre of the military standoff in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian militants are defying Western pressure to exit occupied buildings.

The Ukrainian army has set up a siege operation around the town of 110 000 people to prevent reinforcements reaching the rebels but has stressed it will take a measure response in its military operations in a bid to avoid civilian casualties.

Read more on:    ukraine

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go! - shop online today

Save up to 40% on outdoor accessories!

Tents, sleeping, day packs and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Month End Madness Sale!

Save up to 60% on across a wide range of goods from books to electronics, DVDs and many more. Sale end 31 January 2015. Shop now!

Valentine’s Day gifts – 14 Feb!

Gifts to spoil him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off fragrances

Get 30% off fragrances for him and her. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off All Textbooks

Save up to 30% off an extensive range of prescribed textbooks for all major universities and FET colleges. Shop Now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is a tendency to be too fixed on a set way of doing things today. You may get challenged and the best approach is to keep more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.