Insurgents free last group of monitors
Donetsk – Pro-Russian insurgents yesterday released a second team of observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe who had been held captive since the end of May, the organisation said.
OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said the four observers were released and met by an OSCE official in the eastern city of Donetsk.
‘‘They’re in good health, they’re in good spirits,’’ he said.
OSCE lost contact with four monitors from its Donetsk team and four monitors from its Luhansk team in late May.
The members of the Donetsk team were freed earlier this week.
At a European Union summit on Saturday leaders decided not to immediately impose new sanctions on Russia for destabilising eastern Ukraine, but gave the Russian government and pro-Russian insurgents until Monday to take steps to improve the situation.
The EU leaders said Russia and the rebels should work to release all captives, retreat from border checkpoints, agree on a way to verify the cease-fire and launch ‘‘substantial negotiations’’ on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan.
Ukraine on Saturday signed a free-trade pact with the EU, the very deal that a former Ukrainian president dumped under pressure from Moscow in November, fuelling huge protests that eventually drove him from power. Moscow responded by annexing the mainly Russian-speaking Crimean Peninsula in March, and a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine erupted the month after, leading to the developments that have brought Russia-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War times.
The US and the EU have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and threatened to impose more crippling sanctions against entire sectors of Russia’s economy if the Kremlin fails to de-escalate the crisis.
Earlier yesterday, Russia’s foreign minister accused the United States of encouraging Ukraine to challenge Moscow and heavily weighing in on the European Union.
In televised remarks, Sergey Lavrov said that ‘‘our American colleagues still prefer to push the Ukrainian leadership toward a confrontational path.’’