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Militia down chopper near Slavyansk, 9 feared dead – military spokesman

Published time: June 24, 2014 15:15
Edited time: June 24, 2014 19:30
RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy

RIA Novosti / Mikhail Voskresenskiy

Nine people are feared dead after self-defense forces in the Donetsk region shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter, which was used for transporting military cargo, a Kiev spokesman said.

The Mi-8 helicopter was downed “at about 5 pm local time at Karachun Mountain near Slavyansk by a rocket fired from a portable air defense system,” eastern Ukraine military operation spokesman, Vladislav Seleznyov, wrote on his Facebook page.

“There were nine people aboard the helicopter. According to preliminary information, all those aboard died in the crash,”
he said, adding that the helicopter was returning to a Ukrainian checkpoint after a cargo delivery mission.

The self-defense troops, who fired the missile, escaped to the nearby village of Bylbasovka, Seleznyov wrote.

The Ukraine’s National Guard fighters told the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper that the Mi-8 helicopter was downed during takeoff from Karachun Mountain (a strategic high point near Slavyansk where the Ukrainian army’s artillery is deployed).

The place where the shot came from has been established, with troops currently being deployed there, the source in the National Guard added.

The Ukrainian forces continued shelling the village of Semyonovka on the outskirts of Slavyansk on Tuesday night and during the day, the self-defense forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk told ITAR-TASS news agency earlier.

The heavy artillery fire has prevented the self-defense forces from recovering the bodies of two of its troops killed the previous day, they said.

“There’s no living thing left in the village. Everything is devastated, including factories and railway crossings,” the self-defense forces stressed. “The houses are abandoned. Nobody is harvesting crops from their gardens.”

Meanwhile, the town of Slavyansk remains without a water supply, with the majority of shops and pharmacies staying closed.

Also on Tuesday, a crew from Russia’s Channel One was caught in the shelling outside Slavyansk; the journalists luckily avoided injury.

Also, fighting is currently underway in the suburbs of the city of Donetsk, said Aleksandr Boroday, prime minister of the People's Republic of Donetsk.

“Artillery and armored vehicles are being used,” he told RIA-Novosti news agency, adding people have already been killed and injured in the fighting.

President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern over the resumption of hostilities in Slavyansk and urged Kiev to strive to bring about an end to the bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, now I have relevant information that in one of the most troubled areas – near the city of Slavyansk – the fighting is currently underway; [Kiev's] paratroopers have landed there and there are already victims. It’s sad,” Putin said during a press-conference in Vienna, Austria.

Read more: Putin: Weeklong cease-fire in Ukraine should be extended, accompanied by talks

The fighting in the Donetsk region is continuing despite the seven-day ceasefire announced by Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, on June 20, which was agreed to by the self-defense forces on Monday.

Putin stressed that "the declarations should be backed by real actions, otherwise none of the problems will be solved.”

“Simply declaring a ceasefire isn’t enough,” the Russian president said, calling on the sides to begin “substantive negotiations” on the matter as soon as possible.

“Seven days of ceasefire is insufficient,” he added.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has not excluded the possibility of a premature cancellation of the ceasefire in the country's southeast, the president's press service said.

During a meeting with the heads of the country’s security agencies, he touched upon the issue of the downed helicopter, saying that the self-defense forces have no respect for the truce.

According to the president, Kiev's forces have come under fire 35 times since he announced his peace plan last week.

Poroshenko gave the security agencies “an order to open fire without hesitation” on the self-defense forces," the president’s press service said.

But the authorities of the People's Republic of Donetsk said the “so-called ceasefire,” which Porosheko now wants to cancel, “was never in place.”

“The Ukrainian security forces began shelling Semyonovka and Slavyansk in the morning,” Miroslav Rudenko, one of the Donbas self-defense leaders, told Interfax news agency, adding that the artillery fire was less intense than in previous days, but still steady.

“It was only a declaration [of truce]. On the ground, hostilities didn’t stop even for an hour,”
he added.