Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian helicopters on Friday, killing two crew, as troops tightened their siege of separatist-held Slaviansk in what Moscow called a “criminal” assault by Kiev that wrecked hopes of peace.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said the Kremlin was “extremely worried” that it had not heard from an envoy Putin had sent to the eastern city to help free foreign hostages. He said the “punitive operation” mounted by Ukrainian forces had destroyed a peace plan agreed with Western powers two weeks ago.
The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said in a statement that two Mi-24 helicopter gunships were shot down by shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles while on patrol overnight around Slaviansk, a city that rebels have turned into a heavily-fortified stronghold. Two airmen were killed and others wounded. The attack helicopter normally has two crew but can carry more.
After a few days of extended verbal foreplay, it was only a matter of time before Ukraine finally snapped and resumed a military operation to regain the lost cities in the east, especially once the warmongering IMF made it explicitly clear that should Ukraine lose control of pro-Russian controlled cities the $17 billion bailout package would be lost too. Sure enough, early this morning Kiev launched a military operation to regain control of the pro-Russian separatist stronghold of Slovyansk, overrunning numerous roadblocks and surrounding the city, officials said, but meeting stiff resistance from militants who managed to shoot down at least one helicopter.
The Kremlin said Friday that “all hope” for an internationally negotiated settlement in Ukraine had been destroyed, hours after two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down as government forces launched an assault to dislodge pro-Russian separatists from the eastern city of Slovyansk.
A spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Dmitri S. Peskov, told news agencies that the “punitive operation” against the separatists’ eastern stronghold effectively had destroyed “all hope for the viability of the Geneva agreements” negotiated in the Swiss city on April 17 by the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, which were intended to defuse the crisis.