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Kiev military unit shoots at Russian journalists after fight near Kramatorsk

Published time: May 13, 2014 21:05
Edited time: September 06, 2014 15:19

Ukrainian servicemen on the road between Kramatorsk and Slavyansk.(RIA Novosti / Maks Vetrov)

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Ukrainian armed forces have opened fire on journalists from Russia’s LifeNews working near the city of Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, where fighting broke out between self-defense forces and Kiev’s army.

The shooting began around 1 p.m. as three members of a LifeNews crew tried to enter the village of Oktyabrskoe following the fighting. The village is located some 20 kilometers from Kramatorsk.

“We saw that machines were gone and the shooting stopped like half-an-hour ago. We tried to enter the premises of the village to find out what happened to locals, if they needed help, and if there were wounded among them,” reporter Oleg Sidyakin told RT. “But as we got closer to the outskirts of the village, we ran into an armored troop carrier with a Ukrainian flag on it and armed people in black uniforms. We were going in a car with 'TV' stickers, indicating that were are press. We stuck hands out of windows, but first there came one shot and then machine gun fire.”

Sidyakin said he did not know where the shots were aimed – in the air or above their heads – but still decided to turn away and move to a safer location, in order to avoid provoking armed people.

“I had to make such decision because I could not put in danger the lives of a driver and a cameraman,” he said.

The LifeNews reporter said that local residents were shocked, stating that some of them hid in basements. Many still cannot return home. Sidyakin said that phone communication was cut off, which “as self-defense forces told us, is a sign of an 'active phase' of the military operation” conducted by Kiev forces.

Fighting between Kiev’s army and local self-defense groups broke out in the afternoon near Oktyabrskoe.

“It was around noon. The Ukrainian army was taking ammunitions to the city of Kramatorsk,” local resident Vladimir told RT, citing his friend Aleksandr, who lives nearby.There is the village of Oktyabrskoe, where there is a bridge [on the way]. Our self-defense blew up a vehicle with ammunition and set Kiev’s APC on fire,” he said.

According to Kiev’s Defense Ministry, a group of around 30 self-defense troops “ambushed a convoy of armored vehicles of one of the military units.”

The ministry said the self-defense group came to the scene beforehand and hid in bushes along the river.

“The first shot from a grenade launcher targeted the engine of an APC, which came up to the bridge. There was an explosion. Another APC tried to pull away the damaged machine that caught fire further away from the village. The soldiers engaged in the fight," the ministry’s statement read.

Kiev says that six of its army fighters were killed and another eight injured, with one in critical condition.

Hours after the fight, self-defense units confirmed that they “destroyed two of the enemy’s APCs.” They also reported that one of their militiamen died.

"It is true that there was an armed clash,” the Kramatorsk self-defense unit told Interfax. “The enemy retreated.”

The fight near Kramatorsk is the latest in a string of local fights as Kiev continues to conduct its “punitive operation” against anti-government activists in southeastern Ukraine, which began May 2.