Red Cross says workers detained in east Ukraine freed

Red Cross says workers detained in east Ukraine freed
People climb broken armoured vehicle left behind after Ukrainian forces attacked police headquarters in an attempt to drive out pro-Russian militants in Mariupol

Nine Red Cross members whom rebels said they had detained in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk have been released, officials from the organisation told AFP Saturday.

"An emergency response team from the local Red Cross and one member of the international Red Cross were detained. They are now all free," said a Red Cross official in Kiev, who did not wish to be named. He added that it was not clear who had detained them.

David Pierre Marquet, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman for Europe and Central Asia in Geneva, confirmed the release.

"Our colleagues were arrested last night and were freed the same evening," he told AFP.

Marquet said the team was made up of one Swiss ICRC member, four representatives of the national Ukraine Red Cross branch from Kiev and four representatives of the local branch in Donetsk.

"They were there to evaluate the needs of the population in Donetsk. That is probably why they were freed so quickly, their mandate was very clear," he said.

When asked about the treatment of the Red Cross workers, he said "what we know is that no one was injured." Earlier on Saturday, Kiril Rudenko, deputy spokesman for the self-proclaimed "People's Republic of Donetsk", said the rebels had detained the Red Cross workers on suspicion they were spies.

"They were arrested yesterday. We suspect they were engaged in espionage and we are currently checking these accusations," said Rudenko.

Marquet stressed that the Red Cross would continue its policy of maintaining dialogues with all sides in the Ukraine crisis.

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