Officials from the OSCE special mission in Ukraine leave
the mayor's office with a detained international observer
(L), in Slaviansk. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Pro-Russian rebels paraded European monitors they are
holding in eastern Ukraine, freeing one but saying they had no
plans to release another seven as the United States and Europe
prepared new sanctions against Moscow.
US President Barack Obama called for the United States and
Europe to join forces to impose stronger measures to restrain
Moscow. The White House said it will add names on Monday of
people close to President Vladimir Putin and firms they
control to a list of Russians hit by sanctions over Ukraine,
and also impose new restrictions on high tech exports.
The European Union is expected to follow suit by adding to
its own list of targeted Russian people and firms, but
Washington and Brussels have yet to reach agreement on wider
measures designed to hurt the Russian economy more broadly.
In Donetsk, where pro-Russian rebels have proclaimed an
independent "people's republic", armed fighters seized the
headquarters of regional television and ordered it to start
broadcasting a Russian state TV channel.
Speaking during a visit to Malaysia, Obama said restraining
Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions in Ukraine would
depend on the United States and its allies finding a unified
position on tighter sanctions.
"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," Obama told reporters.
White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken
said the new US measures would be imposed on Monday, mostly
focused on adding to a list of those barred from travel to
the United States and hit by asset freezes.
"We will be looking to designate people who are in (Putin's)
inner circle, who have a significant impact on the Russian
economy. We'll be looking to designate companies that they
and other inner circle people control," Blinken told CBS
"We'll be looking at taking steps, as well, with regard to
high-technology exports to their defense industry. All of
this together is going to have an impact."
The stand-off over Ukraine, an ex-Soviet republic of about 45
million people, has dragged relations between Russia and the
West to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War.
After Ukrainians overthrew a pro-Russian president, Putin
overturned decades of international diplomacy last month by
announcing the right to use military force on his neighbour's
territory. He has seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimea
peninsula and massed tens of thousands of troops on the
Heavily armed pro-Russian gunmen have seized buildings in
towns and cities across eastern Ukraine. Kiev and its Western
allies say the uprising is directed by Russian agents. Moscow
denies it is involved and says the uprising is a spontaneous
reaction to oppression of Russian speakers by Kiev.
An international agreement reached this month calls on rebels
to vacate occupied buildings, but Obama said Russia had not
"lifted a finger" to push its allies to comply.
"In fact, there's strong evidence that they've been
encouraging the activities in eastern and southern Ukraine."
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has
sent unarmed monitors to try to encourage compliance with the
peace deal. The pro-Russian rebels seized eight European
monitors three days ago and have been holding them at their
most heavily-fortified redoubt in the town of Slaviansk.
One, a Swede, was permitted to leave on Sunday after OSCE
negotiators arrived to discuss their release. A separatist
spokeswoman said the prisoner had been let go on medical
grounds, but there were no plans to free the rest.
The captives, from Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark,
Poland and Sweden, were paraded before reporters on Sunday
and said they were in good health.
"We have no indication when we will be sent home to our
countries," the group's leader, German Colonel Axel
Schneider, told reporters as armed men in camouflage fatigues
and balaclavas looked on. "We wish from the bottom of our
hearts to go back to our nations as soon and as quickly as
Germany denounced the appearance and said Moscow must press
their captors to free the prisoners.
"The public parading of the OSCE observers and Ukrainian
security forces as prisoners is revolting and blatantly hurts
the dignity of the victims," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter
Steinmeier said in a statement.
"It is an infringement of every rule of behaviour and
standards that are made for tense situations like this.
Russia has a duty to influence the separatists so that the
detained members of the OSCE mission are freed as soon as
The OSCE, a European security body, includes Russia. Its main
Ukraine mission was approved by Moscow, although the
Europeans held in Slaviansk were on a separate
OSCE-authorised mission that did not require Russia's
Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the rebel leader who has declared
himself mayor of Slaviansk, has described them as prisoners
of war and said the separatists were prepared to exchange
them for fellow rebels in Ukrainian custody.
Washington is more hawkish on further sanctions than some of
its European allies, which has caused a degree of impatience
among some US officials. Many European countries are worried
about the risks of imposing tougher sanctions - the EU has
more than 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United
States and imports about a quarter of its natural gas from
At the Donetsk television headquarters, about 400 pro-Russian
demonstrators chanted "Russia! Russia!" and "Referendum!" - a
call for a vote like one in Crimea that preceded its
annexation by Russia last month. Four separatists in masks
controlled access at the entrance, and more masked gunmen in
camouflage fatigues could be seen inside.
Oleg Dzholos, the station's director, who came outside to
speak to reporters, said the people who seized the building
had ordered him to change the programming.
"They used force to push back the gates," he said. "There
were no threats. There were not many of my people. What can a
few people do? The leaders of this movement just gave me an
ultimatum that one of the Russian channels has to be
Ponomaryov, the rebel leader in Slaviansk, said his men had
captured three officers with Ukraine's state security service
who, he said, had been mounting an operation against
separatists in the nearby town of Horlivka.
The Russian television station Rossiya 24 showed footage it
said was of a colonel, a major and a captain. They were shown
seated, with their hands behind their backs, blindfolded, and
wearing no trousers. At least two had bruises on their faces.
Ukraine's State Security Service said the three had been part
of a unit which went to Horlivka to arrest a suspect in the
murder of Volodymyr Rybak, a pro-Kiev councillor whose body
was found last week in a river near Slaviansk.