Rebels shoot down Ukrainian military helicopter, killing general and 13 others
By End the Lie
Separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter Thursday morning, killing 13 soldiers and a Ukrainian general, demonstrating that the conflict just continues to heat up in the wake of the presidential election.
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Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko spoke out after his election to promise a renewed and more aggressive military crackdown on rebels in eastern Ukraine.
While making the announcement, the military launched an attack on the Donetsk airport. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that 33 of those killed were Russian nationals, citing the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
The fighting killed over 50 at the airport, which is now in the hands of the Ukrainian military.
The downing of the Ukrainian military helicopter on Thursday morning, including the death of the Ukrainian general, was confirmed by outgoing Ukrainian president Oleksandr Turchynov, according to The New York Times.
Turchynov said the attack was carried out using Russian-made portable surface-to-air missiles outside of Slovyansk, a city that has been a rebel stronghold for some time now.
Militants have taken responsibility for shooting down the helicopter, according to CNN.
A militant spokesman said the helicopter flew into the Slovyansk area from Kramatorsk, where the Ukrainian military has a strong presence.
OSCE observers still missing, separatists take responsibility
The fighting has spread into Donetsk, the regional capital of over one million people.
An Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe spokesman said on Thursday that they have not been able to reestablish contact with four monitors sent into the Donetsk region.
The self-declared mayor of Slovyansk told CNN that separatists are holding the four OSCE observers, though he declined to say where they are being held.
“Our militants got them,” Vyacheslav Ponomarev said Thursday, according to CNN. “They were detained because they didn’t respect my request. I asked them not to leave Donetsk (city). They decided they were smarter and could come here.”
Ponomarev said the monitors are not being held in the city of Donetsk, nor are they going to be used as a tool to bargain for the release of separatists detained by the Ukrainian government.
The negotiations for the release of the monitors are “in process,” according to Yevhen Perebynis, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman.
The four monitors, from Denmark, Estonia, Switzerland and Turkey, have been missing since Monday evening, according to the Times.
“With each passing day, we grow more concerned about their safety and well-being,” said Michael Bociurkiw, the OSCE spokesman. “But we are confident they will return to Donetsk shortly.”
A team of 11 OSCE monitors lost contact with their base around noon Wednesday after being stopped at a roadblock outside of the town of Marinka in the Donetsk region, but they resurfaced later that evening. A team of OSCE observers was held hostage by separatists this spring before being released days later.