Slavyansk: The Red Cross insisted Monday that all sides in the Ukraine crisis treat detainees "humanely" and told AFP it was trying to access OSCE inspectors and Ukrainian officers being held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross was made a day after rebels in the eastern town of Slavyansk presented eight European OSCE military inspectors to the media, and allowed Russian state media to broadcast images of three badly beaten Ukrainian military officers stripped to their underwear.
"The ICRC is maintaining a dialogue with all sides involved in the current crisis with a view to obtaining access to the persons deprived of their liberty with a focus on those held in relation to the current situation," the Geneva-based organisation told AFP via email.
"Although the situation in eastern Ukraine does not constitute an international armed conflict (and for this reason the four Geneva Conventions do not apply), the ICRC reminds all sides to treat all persons deprived of their liberty humanely."
A rebel spokeswoman in Slavyansk told AFP on Monday that negotiations with the OSCE were continuing to free seven inspectors seized outside the town three days ago. An update was due in a news conference later Monday.
One inspector, a Swedish major, was released late Sunday, apparently because he suffered from diabetes. The fate of four Ukrainian military officers seized with the OSCE inspectors was unknown.
The insurgents accuse the military inspectors of being "NATO spies" and say they are being treated as "prisoners of war". They insist the group will be let go only in a prisoner swap for pro-Russian militants detained by Ukrainian authorities.
The Swiss government, which holds the rotating OSCE chairmanship, called a meeting at the organisation`s Vienna headquarters on Monday to discuss the situation.
The German and Russian foreign ministers also held a telephone coversation on the issue.
The seven OSCE inspectors comprise four Germans, one Pole, one Dane and one from the Czech Republic. All are men.
The detention of the OSCE team has sparked international opprobrium.
It also raises a serious challenge to the international monitoring mission carried out by the pan-European body that is meant to verify developments related to an April 17 Geneva accord designed to de-escalate the crisis.