UK & World News

  • 27 April 2014, 5:29

Ukraine: 'Observers To Be Used As Human Shield'

Pro-Russian gunmen who seized international military observers in eastern Ukraine plan to use them as a "human shield," according to the Ukraine Security Service.

Eight members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) were travelling with five Ukrainian troops when they were detained by separatists in the flashpoint town of Slavyansk.

Kiev's anti-terror unit claims rebels holding the German-led team are "co-ordinatingactivities with Russia"as tensions continue in Ukraine.

Earlier, Moscow said it would take "all possible steps" to free the military monitors as their capture was condemned by Western leaders.

"We think that these people need to be freed as soon as possible," said Andrei Kelin, Russia's envoy to the OSCE, in comments quoted by Russia'sITAR-TASS news agency.

"Russia as a member of the OSCE will undertake all possible steps in this matter."

However, rebels accused the monitors of being "Nato spies" and vowed to continue holding them.

"They will be exchanged for our own prisoners. I don't see any other way they will be freed," said Denis Pushilin, head of the self-declared Donetsk Republic.

It comes as Britain and other G7 nations agreed new sanctions against Russia.

Senior EU diplomats said they would hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss the matter.

America says Russian military planes have entered Ukrainian airspace several times in the past 24 hours, with Washington calling on Moscow to take "immediate steps to de-escalate the situation".

Officials said it was unclear what the intent was, but the aircraft could have been testing radar or engaging in a show of force.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has also expressed his concern to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about "provocative" Russian troop movements along the border.

The top US diplomat "expressed continued concern that Russia's provocative troop movements on Ukraine's border, its support for separatists and its inflammatory rhetoric are undermining stability, security and unity in Ukraine," a senior State Department official said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk claimed Russia wanted to "provoke Ukraine to start a war."

However, Moscow denied its aircraft had violated Ukrainian air space or any states adjacent to Russia.

Russia is increasing military exercises along its border with Ukraine.

This includes moving a range of fixed wing and rotary aircraft, infantry and armoured troops.

Pro-Russian separatists have seized public buildings in the east of the country and Moscow has been accused of fermenting unrest and separatist sentiment, charges it rejects.

The Kremlin says it has the right to defend Russian speakers if they are under threat, and has deployed extra troops on the border.

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