Seven international military observers who were taken captive in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists a week ago have been released.
Five Ukrainian officers alongside the observers, who are linked to the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe, which has been present in the region since the crisis began, have also been freed.
Their captors said they had released the OSCE observers "without conditions", the BBC reported.
The observers were called in to take to be on the ground as tensions between Russia and the West escalate over the violence in Ukraine.
"As I promised them, we celebrated my birthday yesterday and they left. As I said, they were my guests," Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the leader of the separatists, said, according to the broadcaster.
Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the news of the release in a tweet, saying: "All other hostages held by illegal armed groups should be released."
— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) May 3, 2014ADVERTISEMENT
Ukraine has resumed military action against the separatists, with fighting reported in some areas, where there has been unrest seizures of government buildings by pro-Russian separatists.
The West has accused Russia of being behind the separatists, which Moscow has denied. On Friday, clashes in the town of Odessa caused a fire that killed dozens of people.
A spokesman for Vladimir Putin told the BBC: "From now on Russia essentially has lost its influence over these people because it will be impossible to convince them to lay down arms when there's a direct threat to their lives."