SELF DEFENCE forces have confirmed they attacked a Ukrainian military helicopter at an airfield in eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. A plume of smoke was seen rising over the area.
‘Our people approached the airfield, shot a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in the direction of the helicopter. There was an explosion. Kiev militants started shooting and we retreated,’ a representative from the Kramatorsk self-defence forces reported.
The blowing up of the helicopter has also been confirmed by Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU. Earlier, reports from Kramatorsk.info said several explosions took place at about 11am local time (09:00 GMT). The explosions were followed by a fire and smoke, the news portal added. ‘An Mi-8 helicopter has exploded at Kramatorsk airfield, with no victims reported.’
Local residents say that at least three people died in the explosions. They say the blast took place when the Ukrainian military was arming the helicopter. The Kiev authorities say that ‘the second stage’ of the military operation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk has been launched, which will ‘completely isolate’ the anti-government stronghold. Self-defence forces are preparing for an assault.
The Acting Head of Presidential Administration Sergey Pashinsky said that ‘The aim is to completely isolate Slavyansk to localise the problem. At the moment, the operation is ongoing.’
Ukrainian armed forces have set up a military base some 20 kilometres from Slavyansk. There is an ongoing buildup of troops in the area with ‘snipers hiding in forests in position.’ The military do not intend to storm Slavyansk, fearing civilian casualties, the Ukrainian Security Service has claimed.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has lashed out at US Secretary of State John Kerry over his ‘prosecutorial’ remarks about Russia Today TV.
‘The US is trying to pervert everything that is going on in Ukraine. They accuse us of turning on – what was called by John Kerry in a prosecutorial tone – the “Putin propaganda machine” called RT,’ said Lavrov during the press conference.
Lavrov continued: ‘RT now presents serious competition for CNN and BBC and other media outlets, which some time ago were confident that they had an absolute monopoly and no competition could threaten them.’
During a press conference with the State Department on Thursday, Secretary of State Kerry rounded on RT, lashing out at its Ukraine coverage. ‘The propaganda bullhorn that is the state-sponsored RT programme has been deployed to promote – actually, RT network – has been deployed to promote President Putin’s fantasy about what is playing out on the ground,’ Kerry said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defence Ministry has said that it is prepared to discuss the crisis in Ukraine with the Pentagon, although it has not received a request for such talks, General Major Igor Konashenkov said Friday.
Media reports earlier said that Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel had attempted to contact Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss the situation on Ukraine’s border.