Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the release earlier today of European military monitors and accompanying Ukrainian staff abducted a week ago in the country's crisis-torn eastern region, even as he expressed sadness at the loss of life amid fresh violence in the port city of Odessa, UN News Centre reported.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York, the UN chief expressed his appreciation to all who helped facilitate their safe release, including Russia.
The observers, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and accompanying Ukrainian military staff, had been held since 25 April by gunmen in Slovyansk, the scene of a spate of recent violence.
"[The Secretary-General] once again underscores that those responsible for the capture and detention of the unarmed monitors should be held accountable for their actions, as well as those who continue such unlawful acts in the country," says the statement, reiterating that international missions and their counterparts working in Ukraine must be allowed to perform their duties unimpeded.
Briefing an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who, at Mr. Ban's request, will be heading to region next week, reported that Slovyansk has been occupied by armed insurgents since 12 April.
During the ongoing operations by the authorities, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, two helicopters were shot down over the city Thursday night, with at least one pilot killed, Mr. Feltman told the Council, as he also warned of rising violence in Odessa.
That sentiment was echoed in the statement by Mr. Ban, who welcomed the release of the monitors, but also expressed deep sadness at the tragic loss of lives yesterday in violent clashes in the city of Odessa.
"He extends his condolences to the families of those killed and wishes the many injured a speedy and full recovery. He calls for swift and conclusive investigations into this tragic incident," the statement said.
Media reports suggest that clashes at a trade union building in the Black Sea city sparked a fire that killed and wounded dozens of people.
"The Secretary-General once again stresses that a political and diplomatic solution is the only way out of the crisis" says the statement, reiterating Mr. Ban's urgent call to those involved and all those with influence on the situation to assume their responsibilities and to play a constructive role to de-escalate, end the violence and work towards a peaceful and lasting resolution.
"He underscores the need for all to fully respect Ukraine's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," the statement concludes.