UK & World News

  • 29 May 2014, 16:51

Ukraine: Insurgents Shoot Down Helicopter

A Ukrainian military helicopter has been shot down by pro-Russian rebels over the eastern city of Slavyansk, killing 14 troops including an army general.

The Ukrainian government said the aircraft was brought down using an air defence missile.

The attack shows the capability the rebels still have in the face of a concerted military offensive by Kiev, said Sky News Moscow Correspondent Katie Stallard.

"This would seem proof the separatists in the region are not giving up and they are still fighting and that they do have very sophisticated equipment," she said.

Slavyansk, a rebel stronghold around 100 miles from the Russian border, has been at the centre of fighting between insurgents and government forces in recent weeks.

Authorities in the capital Kiev have condemned the unrest, which it blames on Moscow.

But Russia claims to have no influence over the militants, who argue they are protecting the Russian-speaking population in the east of the country.

Meanwhile, a rebel leader in Slavyansk said his fighters were holding four observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but indicated they would be released shortly.

The OSCE said one of its four-man monitoring teams had gone missing in Donetsk on Monday.

Rebels have previously kidnapped military observers from the OSCE who were sent to check on the security situation amid continuing violence after Moscow's annexation of Crimea, and the uprising by pro-Russian separatists.

The latest violence comes as billionaire Petro Poroshenko was confirmed as Ukraine's new president following elections.

Mr Poroshenko has promised to hold talks with people in the east but also to crush the rebellions, which have seen insurgents seize government offices and clash with Ukrainian troops.

His election coincided with Kiev unleashing its full military force against the rebels, with fighter jets and helicopter gunships used to retake Donetsk airport.

Some rebel leaders said up to 100 fighters may have been killed in the battle.

Russia has called for a halt to Ukraine's military action but acting defence minister Mykhailo Koval said: "Military planes and helicopters will fly until the end of the anti-terrorist operation.

"The armed forces of Ukraine are doing everything possible to ensure no civilians or unarmed people will be harmed."

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