European security watchdog could withdraw observers from Ukraine: mediator

BERLIN (AFP) - The OSCE said Wednesday it had no news of a four-member team gone missing in crisis-torn Ukraine and might consider pulling out of the country if the situation got worse.

"We don't their exact whereabouts but they are, according to everything one can surmise, in the hands of some rebel, separatist groups," German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, the OSCE's negotiator for Ukraine, told German ZDF public TV.

He was referring to a team of OSCE monitors who were detained at a checkpoint Monday in restive eastern Ukraine amid deadly fighting between government forces and pro-Russian gunmen.

Asked if he had news of the four-member team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ischinger replied "no, unfortunately not."

He added: "If the security situation is such that one has to fear for the lives ... of personnel, then one must, I fear, in effect withdraw them."

The disappearance came more than a month after another OSCE team of military observers was captured by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine and held in the flashpoint city of Slavyansk for over a week.

Mr Ischinger said any decision to leave Ukraine would be a difficult one as monitors can have a "restraining influence" in the flashpoint region.