Pro-Russia Forces Shoot Down Ukrainian Choppers Amid Tension

Two Ukrainian helicopters have been shot down by insurgents amid Ukraine's efforts to regain a rebel-controlled region in Ukraine.
Posted at 3:49 PM, May 02, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists have gunned down two Ukrainian helicopters in the eastern city of Slaviansk Friday amid the Ukrainian government's efforts to regain control of the city from rebels.

As part of what Ukraine calls an anti-terrorism exercise, Ukrainian troops took control of several roadblocks surrounding the city. But the move resulted in stiff resistance from pro-Russian militants. (Via Euronews)

The militants' leader described the situation in a video posted to social media. CNN translates: "We are being stormed; we have got casualties. ... I ask armed men to provide us all the assistance they can. I think we will be able to successfully stand up for our city. ... We will win."

According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and several more wounded after separatists used rocket launchers to take down two helicopters patrolling the area — as seen in this video recorded by bystanders. (Via ITN, YouTube / ustream artem)

CNN reports five pro-Russian activists and two civilians were also killed in the incident, according to the militants' leader, but an official death toll has not been released.

An editor for the Kyiv Post tweeted that four rebels suspected of shooting down the aircrafts have been detained by Ukrainian police.

Russian news organization RT reports some separatists claim they are now treating one of the wounded pilots after his team reportedly abandoned him.

But the move could be seen as a bargaining chip for the insurgents. While Ukrainian forces have yet to move further into the city, they've reportedly taken over all roadblocks surrounding Slaviansk.

Some say that pilot is actually being held hostage, and according to a video translated by the Kyiv Post, one of those rebels can even be heard offering to kill him. (Via LifeNews)

The rebels have rejected the claim that Ukraine has successfully seized the checkpoints around the city. In a video message, the separatist-appointed leader says they have "help" on the way. (Via Slavgorod)

The operation has sparked a revolt in the area between pro-Russian and pro-Kiev protestors as Russian influence increases in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly threatened military action if ethnic Russians in the region are harmed.

It's currently unclear whether Ukraine will continue to push forward against the militants. But according to the BBC, Ukraine's acting president says the country is now on "full combat alert" waiting for Russia's next move.

Russia has called for a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday because of the situation in Ukraine. Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a news conference Friday to discuss new sanctions against Russia if it does not de-escalate tensions in Ukraine.