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Pro-Russia Separatists Detain Ukrainian Security Service Agents

This weekend’s incidents come as the leaders of G7 nations prepare to impose more sanctions on Russia.

by Leezel Tanglao
Apr 27 2014, 5:05pm

Photo via VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images

As tensions remain high in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia separatists detained three Ukrainian State Security Service agents in Horlivka this weekend, while a masked pro-Russia militia seized a television station in Donetsk.

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-appointed mayor of Sloviansk, said the trio of captives were part of a group of seven men who “had been mounting an operation against separatists,” according to reports. They were captured in the eastern city of Horlivka, near Sloviansk.

In footage that was aired on the Russian media outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda, the abducted men were shown bruised, blindfolded, stripped of their pants, and bound and tied to chairs.

Watch all of VICE News' dispatches, Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine here.

Three members of Ukraine’s state security service were kidnapped by pro-Russia separatists in Horlivka.

Officials with Security Service of Ukraine said in a news release that the agents were in Horlivka “performing tasks aimed at the arrest of a Russian national suspected of Deputy V. Rybak’s murder. Criminals in Horlivka committed an armed assault on the SSU officers, hindered fulfillment of their mission, and captured them using weapons. The prosecutor's office in Donetsk region has initiated a criminal proceeding for illegal obstruction to the SSU staff activity.”

Press conferences in eastern Ukraine have been getting weirder and weirder. Read more here.

The agents are not the only group being detained in Sloviansk.

A group of international military observers who have been in the custody of pro-Russia separatists for the last three days said in a news conference Sunday that they were not being mistreated, and were in good health.

European military observers detained in Ukraine say they have not been mistreated.

Axel Schneider, the leader of the detained group told reporters that they were in the country on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and were only there to do military verification work, and were not spies. But Ponomarev said they would not be released.

“We are in a war situation here, will not simply release detained officers,” Ponomarev told reporters. “I wanted to reassure their families.”

However, the separatists did release one of the military observers over health reasons.

Will Ukraine be stable enough to hold elections next month? Read more here.

Meanwhile, the situation across eastern Ukraine remains tense. On Sunday, a TV station in Donetsk was stormed and taken without any violence by pro-Russia activists, who said they will broadcast a Kremlin-backed Russian channel instead, according to local media reports.

Pro-Russian militia seized a regional television center in Donetsk, Ukraine, on April 27.

And in Lugansk, pro-Russia activists gave an ultimatum to Ukrainian officials to give “amnesty to all participants in the protest movement in Ukraine’s eastern regions, to grant the Russian language the status of a state language, and to organize a referendum of the region’s self-determination.” If these demands are not met, activists warned of possible “active actions.”

In Photos: Pro-Russia protesters seize buildings in Ukraine. View the pictures here.

This weekend’s incidents comes as the leaders of G7 nations prepare to impose more sanctions on Russia.

“We reiterate our strong condemnation of Russia's illegal attempt to annex Crimea and Sevastopol, which we do not recognize. We will now follow through on the full legal and practical consequences of this illegal annexation, including but not limited to the economic, trade and financial areas,” G7 members said in a statement Saturday. “We have now agreed that we will move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Russia. Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine's presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia's actions.”