Ukraine crisis: Second group of international observers captured

'Armed men' detained OSCE group near Luhansk

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The Independent Online

Another team of international observers has been captured in eastern Ukraine as fighting between government troops and rebels continues.

Five members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been unaccounted for since 7pm on Thursday.

In a statement, the OSCE said the four international monitors and a Ukrainian translator were travelling in two vehicles in Severodonetsk, north of Luhansk, when they were stopped by "armed men".

It was not immediately clear who detained them or why but pro-Russian rebels have claimed responsibility for kidnapping another team of OSCE observers on Friday.

An insurgent leader in the Donetsk region told journalists that members of the first group were in their custody on Thursday.

The rebels said they would “deal with this and then release them,” but did not estimate how long that would take.

OSCE observers have increasingly become a target for rebels as clashes with the Ukrainian army continue and 11 more were imprisoned at an occupied television studio in Donetsk for seven hours on Wednesday.

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.

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

It aims to reduce tension and foster peace and security following Russia's annexation of Crimea and an insurgency in southern and eastern parts of Ukraine.

At least 14 soldiers died on Thursday when rebels shot down a helicopter carrying Ukrainian troops near Slovyansk.

The Government in Kiev had vowed to crack down on militias who have seized official buildings in several cities.

President Petro Poroshenko, who will be sworn in to office next week, previously said the campaign against rebels, who he compared to Somali pirates, would last “hours”.

Additional reporting by AP