UK & World News
Ukraine Observers Freed Amid New Offensive
Military observers kept prisoner in Ukraine for more than a week have been released as bloody clashes in the country show no sign of letting up.
The seven observers and their five assistants, from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, were seized in Slavyansk on April 25.
The separatists had previously accused the observers of being "Nato spies" and said they were to be used as human shields.
Colonel Axel Schneider, the head of the observers, said the group had shown "strength" and that the captivity was "unforgettable for us".
The last two nights had been "really tough", he said.
Mark Etherington, deputy chief monitor of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine, said: "The hostages, we think, were treated adequately. There were some exceptions there."
He added: "The important question now is how the detainees who remain in Slovyansk and elsewhere are treated."
Mr Etherington said dozens more hostages could still be held.
His comments were echoed by Foreign Secretary William Hague who called for the release of all hostages held by illegal armed groups.
The release of the observers comes as Ukraine launched a dawn military operation against separatists in the east of the country.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said troops had seized control of a television tower in Kramatorsk, near the rebel stronghold of Slavyansk.
The violence comes hours after 31 people died after a building in Odessa was set on fire during clashes between protesters.
Police said some people inside the trade union building were overcome by smoke and others were killed jumping from windows as they tried to escape.
Pro-Russian and pro-Kiev activists fought running battles as the southern city saw some of its worst violence since President Victor Yanukovych was ousted in February.
The Interior Ministry said a total of 42 people had died.
Moscow said it was "outraged" and denounced the "criminal irresponsibility" of the pro-Western authorities in Kiev.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asked his US counterpart John Kerry to press Ukraine to halt its military operation in the east of the country.
At an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council, the UK accused Moscow of "breathtaking" hypocrisy over the latest clashes.
The UK's ambassador to the UN, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said Russia had "funded, equipped and directed" some of those involved in the insurgency.
The European Union has urged "utmost restraint" in the Ukraine conflict.
"Many" pro-Russian separatists were also said to have been killed on Friday as the Ukrainian army took control of checkpoints around Slavyansk.
Two Ukrainian soldiers were also killed as two helicopters were shot down in the city, acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said.
The Ukrainian Security Service said one was shot down with a surface-to-air missile, adding that the sophisticated weapon undermined Russia's claims that Slavyansk was simply under the control of armed locals.
Russia has tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's border, and Kiev claims its neighbouring country is preparing to invade and that it is stoking the unrest in the east.
Moscow denies the allegations, but has warned Russia would respond to attacks on Russian citizens or interests in the east, where insurgents have seized government buildings in around a dozen cities.