Pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine released four of the eight members of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) captured over a month ago. The separatists also agreed to hold more peace talks as President Petro Poroshenko said he might not extend the ceasefire, which ends Friday night.
The forces released the four members on Thursday night. The people were there to monitor human rights violations in east Ukraine, which has been a war zone since Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on February 22. The four members are from Switzerland, Turkey, Estonia, and Denmark.
“It was a long road and this release is the fruit of good will and it was unconditional,” said self-proclaimed Prime Minister Alexander Borodai of Donetsk People’s Republic. “I am hoping we can facilitate the release of the four remaining observers.”
The forces are ready to hold a second round of peace talks to end the violence in the east. The group includes former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma, Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov, OSCE representative Heidi Tagliavini, and Borodai. The first round of talks took place on June 25 and did not accomplish much. Poroshenko said the ceasefire he put in place will not be extended if the talks are meant to stall Kiev. Reuters reports:
Poroshenko, installed as president only on June 7 and under pressure from his electorate not to bow to the separatists, has warned that government forces would switch to a “detailed Plan B” – widely assumed to be a government offensive – if the rebels use the ceasefire to re-arm and regroup.
Numerous breaches of the ceasefire – including the downing of a helicopter by rebels, killing nine servicemen, on Tuesday – have increased pressure on him to call the truce off.