A Ukrainian official says negotiations are underway to free nine Nigerian students taken captive by separatists in the eastern city of Luhansk.
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told a news conference Wednesday that people with experience conducting negotiations were making contact with what he called "the terrorists."
He said Ukrainian officials hoped the talks would end "successfully in the near future."
Ukrainian news agencies say militants abducted the Nigerian students in Luhansk on Monday and have been holding them as prisoners at an occupied government security building.
The city is deep inside rebel-held territory, close to the Russian border.
Separatists seeking greater autonomy have been waging a bloody battle in eastern Ukraine against the government.