Germany: Release OSCE hostages immediately

Masked pro-Russian militants patrol in the local administration building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, April 26, 2014. A pro-Russian insurgency leader in eastern Ukraine said Saturday that foreign military observers detained as suspected NATO spies could be released in exchange for jailed pro-Russian activists. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Masked pro-Russian militants patrol in the local administration building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, April 26, 2014. A pro-Russian insurgency leader in eastern Ukraine said Saturday that foreign military observers detained as suspected NATO spies could be released in exchange for jailed pro-Russian activists. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

BERLIN (AP) — The German government is decrying the seizure of European military observers by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine as an act of “hostage taking” and is calling for their immediate release.

The eight observers, including three German officers, were seized Friday on allegations they were spying for NATO.

A Swedish officer was released Sunday, and German captive Col. Axel Schneider spoke on behalf of the group that same day, stressing at a news conference — under armed guard — that they were on an OSCE diplomatic mission and not spies.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday that Germany “strongly condemns this hostage taking” and called for the observers to be released “immediately, unconditionally and unharmed.”

He urged Russia to intervene and “clearly distance itself from these acts.”

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