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Separatists release two US aid workers in Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have freed two American aid workers. The two men were seized at the offices of the International Rescue Committee in April for alleged spying.

"We have freed two Americans that we arrested earlier," Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told journalists on Saturday. He did not give any further details about the identity of the two alleged foreign agents.

The men were seized when insurgents raided the offices of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Donetsk. According to the IRC, 37 of its aid workers were detained during the separatists' raid on April 29.

Thirty of those detained were locals and seven came from other countries. Five of the foreigners were forced to leave the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk immediately, while two were held in captivity for more than a week.

Rebel commanders claimed that they had discovered listening devices in the IRC's office in Donetsk during the raid.

Following the raid, the IRC suspended its work in war-torn eastern Ukraine.

IRC head David Miliband confirmed that two of the organization's workers who had been detained by the rebels were now in a safe location. "By all accounts, they are healthy, out of harm's way and eager to return to their loved ones," the former British foreign secretary said in a statement.

"Every day, the world's humanitarian workers show great courage, taking risks to help the most vulnerable in crisis situations. They should never be targeted," Miliband added.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of arming the rebels and sending in regular soldiers, which Moscow denies. More than 6,200 people died in the brutal separatist conflict raging in eastern Ukraine.

das/bw (AFP, EFE)

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