Pro-Russian extremists shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter, which resulted in the death of 14 people including a senior general.
The incident took place near Sloviansk on Thursday, May 29 as rebels used an anti-craft system to shoot the helicopter down. According to Olexander Turchynov - the outgoing president of Ukraine, the anti-aircraft system was had been made in Russia. The government forces have been engaged in violent fights against the separatists in Sloviansk in recent weeks. Petro Poroshenko, the president-elect of the country, had promised to tackle "bandits" in the east.
According to Mark Lowen of BBC, the shot-down happens to be "a major blow" to the Ukrainian military. The helicopter reportedly had dropped off troops at a military base before it encountered a fierce fighting between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. General Serhiy Kulchytskiy, who was killed in the fight, was the head of combat and special training for Ukraine's National Guard. After 14 soldiers had been killed in an attack on an army checkpoint near Donetsk last week, this was one of the "worst losses of life for government forces in the conflict so far." This was, however, not the first time the rebels shot down an army helicopter. Two more army helicopters were shot down near the same place in April, which killed a serviceman and a pilot.
A spokesman for the rebels claimed the responsibility of the shot-down. Vyacheslav Ponomarev, a self-proclaimed mayor, told CNN that the rebels had done it as the army did not listen to them. "Our militants got them," said Thursday. "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."
Even though Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebynis said on Wednesday that the separatists were holding the monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Ponomarev denied the allegations. He said that the monitors were not "exchange material" as he indicated that they were not held for swapping arrested separatists.