Ukraine: Many insurgents killed in Slovyansk

Comment: Off

In this image taken from Rossia 24 television channel TV, an injured Ukrainian military helicopter pilot is assisted by pro-Russian activists after he was shot down in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday May 2, 2014. Pro-Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters Friday as Ukraine launched its first major offensive against an insurgency that has seized government buildings in the east. The Kremlin said Kiev’s move against the insurgents “destroyed” hopes for peace in the region. (AP Photo/Rossia 24 Television Channel) TV OUT

In this image taken from Rossia 24 television channel TV, an injured Ukrainian military helicopter pilot is assisted by pro-Russian activists after he was shot down in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday May 2, 2014. Pro-Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters Friday as Ukraine launched its first major offensive against an insurgency that has seized government buildings in the east. The Kremlin said Kiev’s move against the insurgents “destroyed” hopes for peace in the region. (AP Photo/Rossia 24 Television Channel) TV OUT

In this image taken from Rossia 24 television channel TV, an injured Ukrainian military helicopter pilot is assisted by pro-Russian activists after he was shot down in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday May 2, 2014. Pro-Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters Friday as Ukraine launched its first major offensive against an insurgency that has seized government buildings in the east. The Kremlin said Kiev’s move against the insurgents “destroyed” hopes for peace in the region. (AP Photo/Rossia 24 Television Channel) TV OUT

A Pro-Russian gunman runs behind barricades holding a weapon in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 2, 2014. Ukraine launched what appeared to be its first major assault against pro-Russian forces who have seized government buildings in the country’s east, with fighting breaking out Friday in a city that has become the focus of the insurgency. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Ukrainian government troops guard a checkpoint just outside Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 2, 2014. Ukraine launched what appeared to be its first major assault against pro-Russian forces who have seized government buildings in the country’s east, with fighting breaking out Friday in a city that has become the focus of the insurgency. (AP Photo/Andrei Petrov)

Ukrainian government troops guard a checkpoint just outside Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 2, 2014. Ukraine launched what appeared to be its first major assault against pro-Russian forces who have seized government buildings in the country’s east, with fighting breaking out Friday in a city that has become the focus of the insurgency. (AP Photo/Andrei Petrov)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russia insurgents shot down two Ukrainian helicopters Friday and Ukraine reported many militants killed or wounded as the interim government in Kiev launched its first major offensive against an insurgency that has seized government buildings across the east.

The Kremlin said Kiev’s military move against the insurgents “destroyed” the two-week-old Geneva agreement on cooling Ukraine’s crisis. President Barack Obama said it was obvious to everyone now that the pro-Russia militants were not peaceful protesters and the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session in Ukraine at Russia’s request.

Fighting broke out around dawn near Slovyansk, a city 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the Russian border that has become the focus of the armed insurgency. Two helicopter crew members were killed in the crashes, both sides said, and the insurgents reported one member killed.

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov later said two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and seven wounded in Friday’s clashes and the insurgents suffered significant losses, including many killed or injured. It was not clear if the two referred to the helicopter crew.

“Our security forces are fighting mercenaries of foreign states, terrorists and criminals,” he said in a statement

By early evening, Turchynov said the army controlled all of the checkpoints around Slovyansk, a city of 125,000 people.

One of the helicopters was hit by a surface-to-air missile, the Ukrainian Security Service said, calling it a sophisticated weapon that undercut Russia’s claims the city was simply under the control of armed locals. The agency said its forces were fighting “highly skilled foreign military men” in Slovyansk.

The Russian state television channel Rossia 24 showed one man they said was a wounded helicopter pilot reportedly being helped by pro-Russia forces.

Central Slovyansk still remained in the hands of pro-Russia gunmen, according to AP journalists in the city. Several foreign news crews trying to cover the fighting were detained for several hours Friday before being released.

A clash also broke out late Friday between pro-Russians and government supporters in Odessa, a Black Sea coast port some 550 kilometers (330 miles) from the turmoil in the east. Police said one person died from gunshot fire and other was wounded. Until now, Odessa had remained largely untroubled since the February toppling of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, which ignited tensions in the east.

Turchynov admitted earlier this week that the central government had lost control of the east, and said some government troops and police there were “either helping or cooperating with terrorist organizations.” He said Ukrainian forces were working to prevent the unrest from spreading to central areas like Odessa.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the Ukrainian offensive “effectively destroyed the last hope for the implementation of the Geneva agreements” that aimed to defuse the crisis. But Dmitry Peskov said Russia “continues to undertake consistent efforts on de-escalation.”

Putin had warned Ukraine not to move against the insurgents and said it should withdraw its military from the volatile eastern and southern regions.

Ukraine, a nation of 46 million, is deeply divided between those in the west who favor closer ties with Europe and many Russian-speakers in the east who look toward Moscow. Ukraine has accused Russia of backing the insurgents who have seized government buildings in at least 10 eastern cities and fears that Moscow is seeking a pretext to invade. Russia has already stationed tens of thousands of troops in areas near the Ukrainian border.

Russian troops

Comments

comments

About the Author