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KIEV, May 01, /ITAR-TASS/. The supporters of federalisation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk are negotiating a possible exchange of their allies arrested by the Kiev authorities for the European military observers detained by the local militia, the UNN news agency reported on Thursday, May 1.
The military observers “remain in Slavyansk. We have created comfortable conditions for them and are on friendly terms with them. Of course, they want to go home and we are engaged in relevant talks with the Kiev authorities. We hope that we will be able to exchange them for our allies seized by Kiev,” the agency quoted Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the people’s mayor of Slavyansk, as saying.
The protesters are also holding three Ukrainian Security Service officers who were detained last Friday, April 25, along with the military observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“They are also here. They are feeling well and we will try to exchange them too,” Ponomarev said.
Ponomarev told Bild Online on Wednesday, April 30, that the observers would not be released any time soon.
“OSCE representatives will make one more visit today and we will hold further talks,” he said. “We are engaged in a good dialogue, but I do not think the release will take place today or tomorrow.”
Ponomarev also said that the Russian leadership was not exerting any pressure in this situation.
The European military observers detained by militia in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk were not who they claimed to be and reported a false purpose of the visit, Ponomarev said earlier.
The detainees said they “have come on a sightseeing tour” but had a map marking the militia’s positions, he said.
“When they asked about the purpose of their visit, they said they had come for a sightseeing tour. In other words, they gave false information from the very beginning,” Ponomarev said, adding that they had a map indicating the militia’s positions.
“Let me tell you that the map alone would be enough to speak about spying,” he said.
“The military were on our territory without our permission and were detained of course,” he said.
“What we should do with them we will know after we have determined who they are and what brought them here,” Ponomarev said, adding that the detainees were being held in “normal conditions”. “One of the military officials has diabetes, but we have necessary medications and food [for him].”
Ponomarev said the supporters of federalisation were ready to exchange the detained military for their comrades being held by the Kiev authorities.
“The Kiev junta is holding our comrades. But we are ready for an exchange if there is such a chance,” he said.
Yevgeny Gorbik, a spokesperson for the supporters of federalisation, told reporters that the detained military observers had been engaged in intelligence activities.
“The humanitarian group of the [OSCE] mission has denied any relation to them… They [observers] had intelligence agents, cryptograms, and notebooks with secret notes”, Gorbik said. “A Bulgarian officer had a notebook with notes in Russian which confirm his intelligence activities and speak of a meeting with agents,” he added.
“No charges have been brought against them so far. But they’ve ended up in a company that calls into question the legitimacy of their activities,” Gorbik said, adding, “The investigation is underway to find out what they were doing and where”.
On April 25, supporters of federalisation in Slavyansk, a city in the south-East of Ukraine, detained a bus with passengers, with unarmed military observers from OSCE countries among them. The observers are staying in the east of Ukraine at the invitation of the Kiev authorities.
The OSCE confirmed to ITAR-TASS that these were not members of the Special Monitoring Mission or the election observation mission but had been sent to Ukraine by individual OSCE member states in accordance with the Vienna Document on confidence- and security-building measures.