OSCE says re-established contact with missing observers in Ukraine

VIENNA (Reuters) - The OSCE has re-established contact with two teams of observers that went missing in eastern Ukraine last month, a spokesman for the democracy watchdog said on Thursday, adding that its monitors were unharmed.

"We now have contact with both teams," a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said, adding the contacts had been re-established in the past 48 hours.

"We know that the first ones, the ones that were taken longer ago are alive and unharmed," the spokesman said.

Asked about the second group, the spokesman said: "They are fine as well."

The security and rights watchdog lost contact with the international monitoring teams late in May amid intense fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian fighters engulfing the eastern flatlands of the former Soviet republic.

Four monitors from the OSCE's Donetsk team went missing on May 26 and four members of the Luhansk team disappeared on May 29.

The spokesman said the OSCE had not established contact with its monitors' captors, but added that diplomatic efforts were continuing to secure their release.

"We call for the immediate and unconditional release of our monitors, and appeal to those holding them to come forward with information: detaining neutral, objective observers serves nobody’s purpose," an OSCE statement said.

(Reporting by Michael Shields and Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Toby Chopra)

((Michael.Shields@thomsonreuters.com)(+43 1 531 12 258)(Reuters Messaging: michael.shields.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))