Ukraine crisis: International observers go missing in Donetsk as fighting rages on

A team from the OSCE disappeared during a routine patrol on Monday

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The Independent Online

International observers have gone missing in eastern Ukraine as fighting between government troops and pro-Russian rebels rages on.

A team from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been unaccounted for since 6pm on Monday.

In a statement, the group said the four observers - an Estonian, a Swiss, a Turk and a Dane - were on a “routine patrol” east of Donetsk when contact was lost.

It added: “We are continuing with our efforts and utilising our contacts on the ground. The Ukrainian Government as well as regional authorities have been informed of the situation.”

Donetsk has seen fierce fighting in the last two days as government forces battled to take control of the city’s international airport back from rebels.

At least 30 insurgents were reportedly killed after Ukrainian troops employed helicopter gunships and fighter jets against insurgents and rebel leaders claimed the death toll could reach 100, including civilians.

Two passers-by were reportedly caught in the crossfire at Donetsk railway station.

The team of observers were part of the OSCE’s special monitoring mission to Ukraine that started earlier this year at the request of the government and with the agreement of all 57 member states.

The monitors aim to reduce tension and foster peace and security in areas experiencing tension or unrest.

If the OSCE team has been kidnapped, it would be the second time they have been targeted during the crisis.

In April, pro-Russian separatists captured seven military observers from the organisation near Slovyansk, accusing them of being “Nato spies”.

Four Germans, a Dane, a Pole and a Czech were detained in the town of Kramatorsk before being released at the start of May.