International Observers Released in Ukraine

42 people reported dead after Odessa fire

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 3, 2014 3:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Pro-Russian militants have released the remaining seven military observers from four European countries taken hostage more than a week ago. Also freed were five Ukrainian military members, a Kremlin envoy told Russian state news, per the Wall Street Journal. "They have freed all the 12 people on my list," said Vladimir Lukin. "This was a voluntary humanitarian act, and we are very thankful to the bosses of the city for it." The observers, from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Denmark, are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which confirmed the release.

A Swedish observer had already been freed. Meanwhile, the toll from riots and a fire in the Ukrainian city of Odessa stands at 42, Reuters reports, calling the devastation the worst since the country's uprising began. The Kremlin says Kiev and its supporters in the West are responsible after dozens of pro-Russia activists died. Some 2,000 protesters today gathered around the burned building, chanting, "Odessa is a Russian city." The Journal adds that the Ukrainian military is surrounding Slovyansk, currently controlled by separatists. "We are not stopping," the interior minister said on Facebook.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomes the German head of foreign military observers, Col. Axel Schneider, who was released in Slovyansk, after his arrival in Berlin.   (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)
The German head of foreign military observers, Col. Axel Schneider, and other OSCE observers exit a plane in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, May 3, 2014.   (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)
Ukrainian OSCE military inspectors Alexander Matvienko, Igor Turansky, Andrew Kolodka, and Valery Udod take part in a briefing at Boryspil airport outside Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday, May 3, 2014.   (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
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