The United States and other Group of Seven countries have agreed to quickly impose more targeted sanctions against Russia, claiming the Kremlin has failed to fulfill the terms of the agreement reached in Geneva earlier this month. Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said they would release the international observers they captured and accused of being NATO spies in a prisoner exchange. Moscow said on Saturday it would do all it can to secure the release of the eight-member German-led team of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), reports the BBC.
The de facto mayor the city of Slaviansk, acknowledged that the observers are being held captive: "They were soldiers on our territory without our permission, of course they are prisoners," according to Reuters. Still, he emphasized the pro-Russian militants would be willing to let the observers go in exchange for separatists who have been detained by Kiev. "Prisoners have always been coins to exchange during times of war. It's an international practice," he said. The team of international observers is made up of "three German soldiers, a German translator and one soldier each from Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Denmark," reports the Associated Press. Five Ukrainians were also part of the team.
Earlier, the U.S. said it could increase sanctions on Moscow “as early as Monday,” reports the Wall Street Journal. "Given the urgency of securing the opportunity for a successful and peaceful democratic vote next month in Ukraine's presidential elections, we have committed to act urgently to intensify targeted sanctions and measures to increase the costs of Russia's actions," the G-7, which includes the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan, said in a statement. The new sanctions are likely to target “individuals or companies with influence in specific sectors of the Russian economy such as energy and banking,” details the Guardian.