Merkel asks Putin to 'use his influence' to obtain release of OSCE members in Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought Russian President Vladimir Putin's help Thursday, asking him to "use his influence" to obtain the release of OSCE military observers being held by pro-Russian militants in southeastern Ukraine.
By JC Finley  |  May 1, 2014 at 2:41 PM
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BERLIN, May 1 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to discuss the release of OSCE military observers who are being detained by pro-Russian militants in southeast Ukraine.

Merkel spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said, "The chancellor reminded President Putin of Russia’s responsibility as a member of the OSCE and called on the president to use his influence."

In response to Merkel's request, the Kremlin reported, "Putin stressed that the most important thing now is to withdraw all military units from the south-eastern parts, stop the violence, and immediately start a national dialogue that would involve all regions and all political forces within the framework of a constitutional reform."

Despite Putin's apparent decision not to "use his influence" to effect the release of the OSCE military observers, both leaders agreed that the OSCE mission to the Ukraine is important to de-escalation efforts.

On April 25, an OSCE military observation group comprised of inspectors from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, and accompanied by Ukrainian defense ministry escorts, were detained by a group associated with the "people's mayor" of Sloviansk.

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has condemned the abduction and called for their immediate release.

One OSCE observer was released on Sunday for health reasons.

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