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Separatists hold missing OSCE observers in eastern Ukraine

The Danish government says armed separatists in eastern Ukraine are holding a team of four OSCE observers which had gone missing. It comes after a day of heavy fighting saw Ukrainian troops retake Donetsk airport.

Danish Trade Minister Mogens Jensen said the group of four observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was being held by pro-Russian separatists.

"According to our information (a Danish national) has been detained by armed separatists in Ukraine along with three other observers," Jensen said.

The group was on a routine patrol on Monday near the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk when contact was lost. The other monitors are from Turkey, Switzerland and Estonia.

Their apparent abduction came before a day of air strikes and gun battles on Tuesday between Ukraine forces and separatists in Donetsk, which saw the

army regain control of the city's airport


The exact death toll is unclear. Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Olexiy Dmytrashovskyi said at least 200 separatists had been killed, but the pro-Russian fighters denied suffering such heavy losses. A police investigator said he had seen a list of 33 dead.

The clashes follow the

weekend election of billionaire chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko

as Ukraine's new president. Poroshenko has said that Kyiv's campaign against separatists would continue but "in a different form," while reaching out to Russia for talks.

Moscow has been accused by Western nations of fanning the unrest in eastern Ukraine and providing covert support for the separatists.

EU's calls to Russia

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Tuesday urged Russia to use its influence to stop the fighting, including halting the flow of separatists and weapons into Ukraine.

It comes as Ukraine's border guard reported a series of vehicles filled with armed men had illegally crossed into the country from Russia, overnight on Tuesday.

"The Russian Federation should as a matter of priority prevent the crossing of separatists and weapons into Ukraine," the leaders said in a joint statement.

They also called on Moscow to cooperate with Poroshenko and "continue the withdrawal of armed forces from the Ukrainian border and use its leverage on the armed separatists to de-escalate the situation."

jr/av (dpa, AP, AFP)

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