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By Thomas Grove
SLAVIANSK, Ukraine, April 27 The leader of the
international observers detained by pro-Russian separatists in
the east Ukrainian city of Slaviansk said on Sunday all the
group were in good health, but they were anxious to be allowed
to go home soon.
Appearing in public for the first time since they were held
three days ago, seven officers from the observer team and their
translator were brought into a room of waiting journalists in
the separatist-held city administration building.
Guards in camouflage fatigues and balaclavas, carrying
Kalashnikov rifles, were also in the room as journalists spoke
to the observers, who were in Ukraine under the auspices of the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Colonel Axel Schneider, who was leading the observer
mission, said the group came to Slaviansk without weapons and
were there strictly in line with their mandate under OSCE rules,
to carry out military verification work.
"We were accommodated in a cellar. We had to set up
conditions for ourselves," said Schneider, describing what
happened after they were seized. "Since yesterday we've been in
a more comfortable room with heating. We have daylight, and an
Schneider, who had a shaven head, a closely-cropped beard
and was wearing a plaid button-down shirt, told reporters he had
"not been touched," and that there had been no physical
mistreatment of the group.
The group sat side by side at a long table in front of the
reporters, looking sombre and serious, but otherwise well.
"All the European officers are in good health and no one is
sick," Schneider said.
He said the separatist de factor mayor of Slaviansk,
Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, had guaranteed the group's safety. He
said he believed the mayor's promise. Ponomaryov appeared with
the detained men at the news conference.
"We have no indication when we will be sent home to our
countries," Schneider said. "We wish from the bottom of our
hearts to go back to our nations as soon and as quickly as
(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Nigel Stephenson)