UK & World News

  • 28 April 2014, 3:19

Ukraine: Pro-Russian Separatists Seize TV Offices

Pro-Russian separatists have seized control of state television offices in eastern Ukraine, according to reports.

Four men wearing masks and armed with truncheons were standing at the entrance to the building in Donetsk, while more separatists could be seen inside wearing camouflage fatigues, Reuters reported.

The regional governor's office and the city hall in Donetsk have already been seized by separatists.

One of the masked men claimed to be a member of the DonetskPeople's Republic and said the TV station would now be broadcasting Rossiya 24 - a Russian state-owned news channel.

It comes after one of eight Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers detained by separatists in Slavyansk was released on Sunday on medical grounds.

Stella Korosheva, a spokeswoman for the separatist mayor of Slavyansk, said the observer who has been freed is a Swedish national.

She said: "He has a mild form of diabetes and so we decided to let him go."

The separatists are not expected to release more of the OSCE observers.

Team leader Colonel Axel Schneider appeared before cameras in Slavyansk to say they are being well-treated and "haven't been touched" by their kidnappers.

They are being protected by the town's self-appointed mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomaryovt, and "treated as his guests," he said.

"We have no indication when we will be sent home to our countries," he added.

"We wish from the bottom of our hearts to go back to our nations as soon and as quickly as possible."

The head of the OSCE, secretary general Lamberto Zannier, was due to fly Ukraine later on Sunday.

Rebels have accused the observers of being "Nato spies" and vowed to continue holding them.

The US earlier reassured its East European allies of Nato's support as the worst post-Cold War stand-off between Russia and the West continues.

US Vice President Joe Bidenspoke with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and "underscored the ironclad commitment of the US" to the collective defence of Nato members.

They "agreed that Russia would face further costs for its destabilising actions in Ukraine and massing of troops along the Russian-Ukrainian border," the White House said.

The US has ruled out sending American or Nato forces into Ukraine, but has begun deploying 600 US troops to bolster defences in the nearby countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Speaking at a news conference in Malaysia, US President Barack Obama said: "We're going to be in a stronger position to deter Mr Putin when he sees that the world is unified and the United States and Europe is unified rather than this is just a US-Russian conflict," he said.

Senior EU diplomats will hold an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss sanctions against Moscow.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the EU and US would be bringing forward further travel bans and asset freezes against Moscow over coming days as punishment for its "bullying" behaviour.

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