Deaths, injuries reported as Ukraine tries to clear pro-Russian rebels

April 13, 2014 | By | Reply More

Apr 13, – Ukrainian security forces launched an operation on Sunday to clear pro-Russian separatists from state buildings in the eastern city of Slaviansk, with dead reported on both sides as Kiev combatted what it calls an act of aggression by Moscow.

hromedia Deaths, injuries reported as Ukraine tries to clear pro-Russian rebels eu news2With East-West relations in crisis, NATO described the appearance in eastern Ukraine of men with specialised Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia – as previously worn by Moscow’s troops when they seized Crimea – as a “grave development”.

Ukraine faces a rash of rebellions in the east that it says are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, dangerous phase as Moscow has warned it will protect the region’s Russian-speakers if they come under attack.

One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five were wounded on the government side in what interior minister Arsen Avakov called Sunday’s “anti-terrorist” operation.

“There were dead and wounded on both sides,” Avakov said on his Facebook page, adding that about 1,000 people were supporting the separatists.

The Russian news agency RIA reported that one pro-Moscow activist was killed in Slaviansk in clashes with forces loyal to the Kiev government. “On our side, another two were injured,” RIA quoted pro-Russian militant Nikolai Solntsev as adding.

Russian TV broadcast grainy footage of what it said was the body of the militant. The images, which Reuters could not verify independently, showed a man in black clothes, slumped against the door of a car, with a pool of blood between his legs. A rifle lay next to him.

The separatists are holed up in the local headquarters of the police and of the state security service, while others have erected road blocks around Slaviansk, which lies about 150 km (90 miles) from the Russian border.

However, details of the fighting remain sketchy. A statement from the administration of the eastern Donetsk region indicated the security officer may have been killed between Slaviansk and the nearby town of Artemivsk. Putting the number of wounded at nine, it said “an armed confrontation” was going on in the area.

An eyewitness in Slaviansk said a gunman walked up to a car in the city centre and fired four or five shots into it. Video footage from the scene later showed a man being pulled out of the car, either seriously wounded or dead. It was not clear what links the shooting had with the unrest in the town.

Kiev accuses Moscow of trying to deepen violence and chaos in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic it once ruled. The Kremlin, it says, wants to undermine the legitimacy of presidential elections on May 25 that aim to set the country back onto a normal path after months of turmoil.

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kiev was “demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country” and warned that any use of force against Russian speakers “would undermine the potential for cooperation”, including talks due to be held on Thursday between Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union.

Press coordinator for HRO media – Debi Campillos contributed to this report.

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Category: European Crises

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