Downed Helicopter Kills 14 as Ukraine ‘Fratricidal War’ Deepens
Continued violence makes negotiated settlement increasingly difficult
Jon Queally, staff write
Separatists in the east of Ukraine who refuse to submit to the political and military authority in Kiev have shot down a helicopter near the city Slaviansk, killing a reported fourteen soldiers including a general.
Clashes have continued between military units that reject the outcomes of national elections that took place Sunday and members of the established Ukraine army who have been directed by Kiev to crush those who have taken over buildings and claimed “autonomy” for territories in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
On Monday, a battle between opposing forces left a reported 50 or more dead at the main airpoort in Donetsk and Thursday’s helicopter downing is a sure sign that the violence is not yet over in Ukraine.
Leaders in Kiev and Moscow have continued to trade barbs amid the violence even as Sunday’s election results—in which billionaire Petro Poroshenko was elected as the new president—spurred hope for a new round of talks between the warring sides inside Ukraine.
With neither side willing to put down its guns, however, traction for a negotiated settlement continues to slip.
In Kiev, Defense Minister Mikhailo Koval said on Thursday that the military assault in the east would continue as he continued to paint those opposed to the Kiev government–who came to power in a coup earlier this year–as “terrorist” forces.
“We have put all our forces and equipment into the anti-terrorist operation,” said Koval. “We have covered the whole state border.”
Representing Russia’s continued position that a cease fire must be declared in the eastern regions so that talks can take place, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused western nations of pushing Ukraine into “the abyss of fratricidal war,” by backing the Kiev assault. Lavrov repeated his demand that the Ukraine army and security forces end their counter-productive military offensive against its own people.
Regarding Thursday’s developments, the Associated Press reports:
Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told the parliament in Kiev that rebels used a portable air defense missile Thursday to bring down the helicopter. He said Gen. Serhiy Kulchytskiy was among the dead, according to the Interfax news agency, which earlier gave the wrong first name for the general.
Slovyansk, 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Russian border, has become the epicenter of fighting between pro-Russia insurgents and government forces in recent weeks. Its residential areas have regularly come under mortar shelling from government forces, causing civilian casualties and prompting some residents to flee.
An Associated Press reporter saw the helicopter go down amid a trail of black smoke. Gunshots were heard in Slovyansk near the crash site and a Ukrainian air force jet was seen circling above. It was too dangerous to visit the site itself.
Turchynov said the helicopter was flying troops in for a rotation to a hill outside Slovyansk where Ukrainian forces have set up positions.