Since 25 April, inspectors from the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), four of whom are German nationals, have been held against their will by separatist forces in Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine. The efforts to free the OSCE inspectors continue. On this behalf the Federal Government is in very close contact with the OSCE.
As soon as news of the events came out Foreign Minister Steinmeier ordered a crisis unit to be set up in the Federal Foreign Office. The unit has met repeatedly, and did so again on Sunday afternoon under the leadership of State Secretary Markus Ederer.
On Sunday Foreign Minister Steinmeier re‑emphasised that the OSCE had the full support of the Federal Government for the negotiations which are currently taking place: “In very close contact with the OSCE, we are continuing to make every effort to bring about a positive solution.” He continued:
Today’s parading of OSCE observers and Ukrainian security forces as prisoners is abhorrent and a flagrant violation of their human dignity. This also violates every rule of proper behaviour and all the standards that were established for just such tense situations as these.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed that Russia still had an obligation to use its influence with the separatists in order to convince them to release the members of the OSCE mission being held as quickly as possible.
The Federal Government is leaving no stone unturned to secure the release of the detained OSCE inspectors
Foreign Minister Steinmeier had already commented on the efforts of the Federal Government beforehand (26 April), stating that the Federal Government was leaving no stone unturned “to secure the release of the detained persons and to ensure that they can return to their tasks in good health and as soon as possible”. Germany is in close contact with the Governments of Russia, Ukraine as well as the OSCE and is using all means available to secure the release of those affected as soon as possible. An OSCE negotiation team is in the region. Steinmeier continued:
The OSCE is working on the ground to achieve a swift release through contacts and talks, including with the groups who are holding the OSCE inspectors. Naturally we fully support the OSCE in these efforts.
When he spoke to the President of the Swiss Confederation and current Chair of the OSCE, Didier Burkhalter, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, as well as the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, Steinmeier asked all three for the highest degree of support. Following the discussions, the German Foreign Minister stated: “I am very pleased that all three pledged their support and expressed their will to do all they can to work for the release of the inspectors.”
The OSCE team in question is in the country at the invitation of Ukraine under the OSCE Vienna Document, a politically‑binding agreement between all 57 OSCE member states. Measures for increased transparency and confidence‑building as well as for peaceful conflict management form a central component of the Vienna Document.