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OSCE observers held in Ukraine released



SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) - Pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine on Saturday released the seven OSCE military observers and five Ukrainian assistants who had been held for more than a week. The insurgent leader in Slovyansk was quoted as saying he ordered the release because of increasing insecurity in the city, where fighting broke out on Friday.

The observers, members of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer team, were seized on April 25 in Slovyansk, the epicenter of eastern Ukraine's unrest. The insurgents said the team possessed unspecified suspicious material and alleged they were spying for NATO.

A team member from Sweden was also seized but was released earlier. Unlike the other observers' countries, Sweden is not a member of NATO and the Swede reportedly suffers from a mild form of diabetes.

The insurgents' leader in Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying he ordered the release because of increasing insecurity in the city. But he later The Associated Press that "they are not being released - they are leaving us, as we promised them."

Two Ukrainian helicopters were reported shot down outside the city on Friday, killing two crew members. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said two other soldiers were killed in a clash on the city's edge.

Ponomarev said 10 local people were killed in a confrontation with soldiers on Slovyansk's outskirts. On Saturday, an Associated Press reporter saw the body of a middle-aged man at the site of that clash, lying on ground strewn with bullet casings, but the claim of 10 dead could not be confirmed.

On Saturday, news reports claimed fighting broke out in the city of Kramatorsk, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) south of Slovyansk.

Despite the release, tensions in Ukraine heightened sharply after at least 42 people died in clashes between government supporters and opponents in the Black Sea port of Odessa on Friday. The clash began with street fighting between the two sides in which as least three people were reported killed by gunfire, then turned into a grisly conflagration when government opponents took refuge in a building that caught fire after protesters threw firebombs inside.

At least 36 people died in the fire, according to the emergencies ministry. An Interior Ministry statement gave the overall death toll for the day at 42, but did not give a breakdown.

The city's police chief, Petr Lutsyuk, on Saturday issued a statement calling for calm in the city of about 1 million, but hours later he was fired by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman on Saturday decried the Odessa deaths as evidence that the interim government in Kiev, which came to power following the toppling of the pro-Russia president after months of protests, encourages nationalist extremists.

"Their arms are up to their elbows in blood," Russian news agencies quoted Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Odessa, some 550 kilometers (330 miles) southwest of Slovyansk, had not previously seen significant confrontations in Ukraine's crisis, and the deaths there suggested that violent unrest could spread far from the relatively compact area in the east where it has been concentrated so far.

Odessa is the major city between the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in March, and the Moldovan separatist region of Trans-Dniester where Russia has a military peacekeeping contingent. Some analysts speculate that Russia ultimately aims to take control of a huge swath of Ukraine from Transdniester to the east.

A three-day mourning period was declared in Odessa on Saturday; mourners came to the fire site to lay flowers. There were no signs of new unrest, but Valery Kaurov, a leader of the anti-government contingent in the city, told Russian state television that protests could resume once the mourning period ends.

There were also signs of a desire for revenge. A page appeared on Vkontakte, a Russian analogue of Facebook, showing photos and stating home addresses of people allegedly responsible for the fire deaths.

One of the released observers, German Col. Axel Schneider, told The Associated Press that all 12 of the detainees held up well.

"They had a very good attitude and that gave them the strength to stand the situation," he said. "According to the word of (Ponomarev), we have been treated as good as possible. This is a miserable situation, but we were under his protection."

Those held included three other Germans and one soldier each from Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Although Russia denies allegations that it is fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine, where insurgents have seized government buildings in about a dozen cities and towns, it sent Vladimir Lukin, Russia's former human rights ombudsman, to negotiate for the release of the observers as a representative of Putin. The initiative to send him came from Counil of Europe head Thorbjorn Jagland, according to his spokesman Daniel Hoeltgen.

Lukin was quoted by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti as saying the release was "a voluntary humanitarian act."

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sardukar83 May 03 2014 at 4:44 PM

So we dont really know who is fighting who or why......sounds like something we need to stay out of ....the gov't of Ukraine kicked their democratically elected leader out in a coup....theyre unstable at best...they might not be there next week let alone tomorrow......as for Russian involvement ...i see Kerry and Obama threatening Putin and Russia without providing proof ....dangerous ground that weve been through before with Bush.....besides the fact that Obama has lost most of his credibility in foriegn affairs with leaders like Merkel.....not to mention with the american people with his constant lying on spying, Obamacare, etc....hes becoming a punchline .....

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4 replies
tommcc2002 May 03 2014 at 6:31 PM

A clue is Moldovan seperatists in Trans-Dniester. The peoples of central and eastern Europe have had their borders redefined for them by various empires repeatedly over the centuries. Hitler took advantage of that with the Sudetenland. Putin, who is otherwise not much of a Hitler, is being accused of doing the same in Crimea. We are, with international law, highly inclined to respect and want enforced the national boundaries as they happen to have fallen out at this time. But perhaps a special action by the nations in that area, democratically approved, for numerous local referendums (votes) concerning nation membership, would be a good thing. This would mean setting aside the historical border issues and letting whoever lives there now have the vote, and also not letting militant insurrectionists and international interests disrupt a peacable vote.

Dream on?

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1 reply
ufomike tommcc2002 May 03 2014 at 7:11 PM

Well keep in mind, there are numerous state secession movements in the US. Texas having the biggest got 100,000+ signatures. This is the threshold at which the president is obligated to respond. The petition was of course denied. But state secession movements may accelerate as the conditions in the US deteriorate and disgust with the Federal government increases.

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Ghetto Cat May 03 2014 at 6:43 PM

Is there naturalization after girls turn 18? Nope.
They open up to the huge market of older men.

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2 replies
neutralslamm Ghetto Cat May 03 2014 at 7:16 PM

What in Sam Hill are you talking about?

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1 reply
Ghetto Cat neutralslamm May 03 2014 at 8:07 PM

After 18 a legal war usually begins.

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ufomike Ghetto Cat May 03 2014 at 7:19 PM

Are you a pedophile or something?

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3 replies
savannahswithgod May 03 2014 at 6:58 PM

Grisley? Funny? There's a conflict for control, land and the subjugation of people there. Grisley would be the less of it!

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davandsher May 03 2014 at 7:10 PM

"Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observer team" ? I wonder who's footing the bill for this organization. If it's the UN that means the United States. It looks like we have people there just like Putin has.

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1 reply
calderasf davandsher May 03 2014 at 7:17 PM

It's not the UN learn a little current events.

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zentalent May 03 2014 at 7:27 PM

Hypothetically, Russia is like Mexico and Ukraine is like Calif. How come our "leaders" have allowed Mexico to invade Calif and Arizona as if our borders were meaningless? Maybe our pres should set up camp at the USA/Mex border and warn Mex. His message: "No one wants their home broken into and our country is more important than a home."

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2 replies
neutralslamm zentalent May 03 2014 at 7:34 PM

Yes....and you were very kind to not mention BO and or types like Jeb Bush being hypothetically like Putin in that situation, lol.

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jomona21 zentalent May 03 2014 at 8:04 PM

Go away. Pick Ukraine or Russia as you choose, but go away.

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1 reply
vladswim jomona21 May 03 2014 at 8:17 PM

Get out of these message boards you Hohol bastard

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Kat4Hat May 03 2014 at 8:04 PM

From Odessa: "Many believe that foreign forces and nationalist groups are acting as part of the Kiev-led operation under the auspices of the Ukrainian army. "They are here: the US army, mercenaries, Right Sector," sobbed 48-year-old Yelena in the city's central square. "You see what they have done in Odessa. They want to kill us, to destroy us totally."

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2 replies
vladswim Kat4Hat May 03 2014 at 8:20 PM

Indeed, I heard many Ukrainians say that when the soldiers passed some of them spoke English.. hmmmm

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1 reply
jrammos vladswim May 03 2014 at 9:32 PM

You are too much. Listen...most Russians and all of Europe for that matter, speak English. I have Russian friends in the US and they laugh at people who are defending Putin here in the US when they gave all they had to get here. Let me guess, it's because you just hate the president. Move to Russia pal

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Camp Bulldog Kat4Hat May 03 2014 at 8:28 PM

The Muslims have called for a Jihad in the Ukraine. The Muslims will stack the heads of any Soviet soldier. Just like Afghan. Ukraine consist of 24% Muslum. What the Ukrainian Army won't do...the Jihadists will.

The Soviets need to stay out of it...or watch their troops die....

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1 reply
Kat4Hat Camp Bulldog May 03 2014 at 8:32 PM

There is no Ukrainian army, because there is no legitimate Ukrainian government only US proxies, Nuland's nice civilised fascists and nazis. The rebels aren't "pro-Russian", they're pro-federalism but after the latest massacres, I doubt they would resist a peacekeeping force.

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Kat4Hat May 03 2014 at 8:08 PM

Repost: " Don’t even dare call this a war…it is civil mass murder waged on the poor for the interests of Private Corporations, the Private Central Western Financiers/investors and the geopolitical interests of a few Crazy homicidal Bastards. This is no war…it is murder committed by dangerous criminals who are now trying to hide their cowardly actions behind the ‘legality’ of war."

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1 reply
vladswim Kat4Hat May 03 2014 at 8:13 PM

They will not get away with it. Putin just has to sit back and watch how this whole thing will turn into a complete disaster. More people will be beaten, burned, and killed. Who will be to blame for all this mess? Let's just say it won't be the Russians.

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1 reply
jrammos vladswim May 03 2014 at 9:30 PM

Another anti American who believes America should be ruled by Putin. There's the door

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vladswim May 03 2014 at 8:09 PM

The notion that Russia wants to occupy Ukraine or even invade it to protect ethnic Russians is far from the mark. The last thing Russia wants is responsibility for one of the worst basket-cases in all of Europe. Ukraine is a nearly failed state, all of its politicians are corrupt to a greater or lesser degree, it is bankrupt, has no effective police force, is held down by a crumbling infrastructure, decrepit industrial base, massive unemployment and a dysfunctional legal system. Putin is likely delighted to see the whole mess dumped into the lap of the U.S. and EU to try to sort out a process that will take a decade and tens of billions of dollars just to tread water.

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3 replies
skipdude37 May 03 2014 at 6:18 PM

Its not our fight.

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2 replies
neutralslamm skipdude37 May 03 2014 at 6:30 PM

Correct, we have to worry about our own insurgents, they are south of the border. They are not Putin's, they are Obama's, Progressive Dems who want a welfare state, and Rhino Reps who lobby business that want cheap labor.

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6 replies
savannahswithgod skipdude37 May 03 2014 at 6:59 PM

No our fight is Greed from Wall Street and the Elite. We lost!

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