Ukraine rebel city says holding international observers

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Ukraine rebel city says holding international observers
Pro-Russian insurgents aim their rifles during fighting around the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched air strikes Monday against the separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, suggesting that fighting in the east is far from over. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Smoke rises from the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched airstrikes Monday against the separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, suggesting that fighting in the east is far from over. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
Pro-Russian insurgents carrying weapons arrive near the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched airstrikes Monday against the separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, suggesting that fighting in the east is far from over. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Pro-Russian insurgents with weapons arrive near the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched airstrikes Monday against the separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, suggesting that fighting in the east is far from over. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Pro-Russian insurgents on a truck carrying weapons arrive near the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched airstrikes Monday against the separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, suggesting that fighting in the east is far from over. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A pro-Russian insurgent aims his rifle during fighting around the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched air strikes Monday against separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern capital of Donetsk in what appeared to be the most visible operation of the Ukrainian troops since they started a crackdown on insurgents last month. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian policeman and soldiers in a tank stand guard at their newly erected checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainain city of Slavyansk on April 25, 2014. Ukraine's army on April 25 launched an operation to ensnare pro-Russia militants in the flashpoint eastern city of Slavyansk in a bid to prevent reinforcements and keep civilian casualties down, authorities said. AFP PHOTO/ GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A Ukraianian soldier in a tank looks on at their newly erected checkpoint near the eastern Ukrainain city of Slavyansk on April 25, 2014. Ukraine's army on April 25 launched an operation to ensnare pro-Russia militants in the flashpoint eastern city of Slavyansk in a bid to prevent reinforcements and keep civilian casualties down, authorities said. AFP PHOTO/ GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-Russian armed man in military fatigues stands guard outside the security service (SBU) regional building which was seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 25, 2014. Seven members of an OSCE observer mission in Ukraine were seized by rebels today and being held in the eastern flashpoint town of Slavyansk, the interior ministry in Kiev said. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Russian armed men in military fatigues stand guard outside the security service (SBU) regional building which was seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 25, 2014. Seven members of an OSCE observer mission in Ukraine were seized by rebels today and being held in the eastern flashpoint town of Slavyansk, the interior ministry in Kiev said. AFP PHOTO / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-Ukrainian self defense unit perform unarmed combat drill at their training ground outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. The unit consists of volunteer residents of the Donetsk region to combat pro-Russian insurgents in the Donetsk' region. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation."(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Ukrainian helicopter flies over a column of Ukrainian Army armored vehicles near Slovyansk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian forces launched an operation Thursday to drive pro-Russia insurgents out of occupied buildings in the country's tumultuous east, prompting new threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Within hours of the Ukrainian operation, which killed at least two pro-Russia militants, Russia's defense minister announced new military exercises for troops massed near Ukraine's border. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Pro-Ukrainian self defense unit perform weapons exercises at their training ground outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. The unit consists of volunteer residents of the Donetsk region to combat pro-Russian insurgents in the Donetsk' region. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation."(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Elena, the widow of slain council man Volodymr Rybak caresses the face of her husband as his body lays in the coffin prior to his funeral after his body was found on Tuesday after his alleged abduction by pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern city of Horlivka, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Seen through a car window, Ukrainian soldiers block a road near the village of Aleksandrovka, in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Seen through a car window, Ukrainian soldiers block a road near the village of Aleksandrovka, in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Seen through a car window, Ukrainian soldiers block a road near the village of Aleksandrovka, in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Seen through a car window, Ukrainian soldiers inspect a car near the village of Aleksandrovka, in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Seen through a car window, Ukrainian soldiers block a road near the village of Aleksandrovka, in eastern Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Russian masked gunmen patrols a street in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A pro-Russian masked gunman patrols a street in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Supporters of Ukrainian soccer team Shakthar Donetsk chants pro-Ukrainian slogans during the soccer match between Shakthar Donetsk and Tavriya Sinferopol, played in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A pro-Russian masked gunman patrols a street in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Russian activists guard at a barricade at the regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist who has not been seen since early Tuesday. Simon Ostrovsky, a journalist for Vice News, has been covering the crisis in Ukraine for weeks and was reporting about groups of masked gunmen seizing government buildings in eastern Ukrainian. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A pro-Russian masked gunman mans his post on a street in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding American journalist Simon Ostrovsky, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A pro-Russian masked gunman patrols a street in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Ukrainian self defense volunteer controls a road on the outskirts of Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. The unit consists of volunteer residents of the Donetsk region to combat pro-Russian insurgents in the Donetsk' region. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation."(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A pro-Ukrainian self defense volunteer watches military exercises at their training ground outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. The unit consists of volunteer residents of the Donetsk region to combat pro-Russian insurgents in the Donetsk' region. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation."(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Ukrainian soldier sits atop of his armored vehicle at a check point near the village of Artemiovska, around 20 km (14 miles) from Slovyansk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian forces launched an operation Thursday to drive pro-Russia insurgents out of occupied buildings in the country's tumultuous east, prompting new threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Within hours of the Ukrainian operation, which killed at least two pro-Russia militants, Russia's defense minister announced new military exercises for troops massed near Ukraine's border. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Pro-Russian armed men rest as they guard a checkpoint near Krasny Linam village outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian forces on Thursday killed at least two pro-Russian insurgents in the country’s tumultuous east, an escalation that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to threaten unspecified consequences. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A pro Russian masked militant directs traffic at a checkpoint following an attack by Ukrainian troops outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Smoke from burning tires rises as a pro Russian armed militant guards a checkpoint following an attack by Ukrainian troops outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation." (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Pro-Ukrainian self defense unit performs weapons practice at their training ground outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Thursday, April 24, 2014. The unit consists of volunteer residents of the Donetsk region to combat pro-Russian insurgents in the Donetsk' region. Ukrainian government troops moved against pro-Russia forces in the east of the country on Thursday and killed at least two of them in clashes at checkpoints manned by the insurgents, the government and insurgents said. Russian President Vladimir Putin decried what he described as a "punitive operation."(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE - APRIL 24: A Ukrainian soldier searches a car while he guards a roadblock along the highway on April 24, 2014 near Slovyansk, Ukraine. Today Ukrainian forces began to establish roadblocks around the cities of Slovansk and Donetsk, both strongholds of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine government claims 5 separatists were killed during skirmishes with the Ukrainian army in Slovyansk today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE - APRIL 24: Ukrainian soldiers guard a roadblock along the highway on April 24, 2014 near Slovyansk, Ukraine. Today Ukrainian forces began to establish roadblocks around the cities of Slovansk and Donetsk, both strongholds of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine government claims 5 separatists were killed during skirmishes with the Ukrainian army in Slovyansk today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE - APRIL 24: Ukrainian soldiers guard a roadblock along the highway on April 24, 2014 near Slovyansk, Ukraine. Today Ukrainian forces began to establish roadblocks around the cities of Slovansk and Donetsk, both strongholds of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine government claims 5 separatists were killed during skirmishes with the Ukrainian army in Slovyansk today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE - APRIL 24: Pro-Russian separatist militants fill sand bags to reinforce a checkpoint on April 24, 2014 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. Pro-Russian activists have been occupying government buildings and demanding greater autonomy in many Eastern Ukrainian cities in recent weeks, prompting the government in Kiev to threaten military action to retake control of the cities. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE - APRIL 24: Ukrainian soldiers guard a roadblock along the highway on April 24, 2014 near Slovyansk, Ukraine. Today Ukrainian forces began to establish roadblocks around the cities of Slovansk and Donetsk, both strongholds of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine government claims 5 separatists were killed during skirmishes with the Ukrainian army in Slovyansk today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE - APRIL 24: A Ukrainian soldier guards a roadblock along the highway on April 24, 2014 near Slovyansk, Ukraine. Today Ukrainian forces began to establish roadblocks around the cities of Slovansk and Donetsk, both strongholds of pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine government claims 5 separatists were killed during skirmishes with the Ukrainian army in Slovyansk today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SWIDWIN, POLAND - APRIL 23: Members of a Polish paratrooper unit march to assemble prior to the arrival of soldiers of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade at a Polish air force base on April 23, 2014 in Swidwin, Poland. Approximately 150 U.S. troops, as well as another 450 destined for the three Baltic states in coming days, will participate in bilateral military exercises over the coming weeks in a sign of commitment among NATO members. Tensions are rising in eastern Ukraine between Russian separatists and Ukrainian authorities and NATO is seeking to reassure its own members located close to Russia. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
SWIDWIN, POLAND - APRIL 23: Members of the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade disembark upon their arrival by plane at a Polish air force base on April 23, 2014 in Swidwin, Poland. Approximately 150 U.S. troops, as well as another 450 destined for the three Baltic states in coming days, will participate in bilateral military exercises over the coming weeks in a sign of commitment among NATO members. Tensions are rising in eastern Ukraine between Russian separatists and Ukrainian authorities and NATO is seeking to reassure its own members located close to Russia. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
A pro-Russian armed militant guards a checkpoint blocking a major highway which links Kharkiv, outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. On Monday, some pro-Russians blocked off the road to the airport in Donetsk, a major eastern city, causing delays to many flights. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Pro-Russian insurgents arrive with weapons, near the airport outside Donetsk, Ukraine, Monday, May 26, 2014. Ukraine's military launched airstrikes Monday against the separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, suggesting that fighting in the east is far from over. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
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(Reuters) - Armed pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk were holding a group of international observers on Friday, saying they had found a Ukrainian spy travelling with them.

"They are with us in Slaviansk," the de facto mayor of the city, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, told Reuters in front of the seized security service building where, according to the Ukrainian government, the observers were being held.

"What the situation was I do not know," he said. "It was reported to me that among them (the observers) was an employee of Kiev's secret military staff."

"People who come here as observers bringing with them a real spy: it's not appropriate." Later, a man in a mask and camouflage fatigues said there would be no more comments on Friday evening.

The detention of the observers, who are working for the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will heighten Western concerns about lawlessness and arbitrary rule in separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine.

It may also increase Western leaders' pressure on Moscow, which they accuses of backing the militias. The Kremlin denies interfering in eastern Ukraine.

Sanctions Aren't Enough to Stop Putin

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his Twitter account: "Extremely concerned with OSCE inspectors being abducted in a Eastern Ukraine. Including one Swede. They must be released immediately."

Slaviansk is the biggest flashpoint in an armed uprising in eastern Ukraine that has widened into the worst stand-off between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

MULTINATIONAL GROUP

Earlier, the German foreign ministry in Berlin said it had been unable to contact a German-led group of international military observers on a mission in the city.

The group comprised three German soldiers, a German translator, and military observers from the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Denmark, a spokesman for the ministry in Berlin said.

The interior ministry in Kiev said the group that had been detained included 7 OSCE representatives and five members of the Ukrainian armed forces who were accompanying them.

"At the moment, talks are going on with representatives of pro-Russian forces. They have refused to free the hostages, saying they want to speak to "competent organs" of the Russian Federation," the Ukrainian interior ministry spokesman said.

Slaviansk, a city of around 130,000, has been for two weeks under the control of separatists who, like similar groups elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, oppose the central government in Kiev after the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed president.

Government forces said on Friday that they were gradually tightening a blockade on the city in an "anti-terrorist operation" that was relaunched earlier this week.

The separatists there have also been holding several journalists, although they released one of them, a U.S. citizen, on Thursday.

Russia says the pro-Russian militias are a spontaneous protest against a government in Kiev which it says is illegitimate, has far-right links, and has committed a crime by using the army to put down the revolt.

Several of the separatists manning checkpoints on the edge of the city have been killed in raids by defense and interior ministry forces from the Western-backed government in Kiev.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev; writing By Richard Balmforth; editing by Christian Lowe and Philippa Fletcher)

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