Ukraine’s acting president says pro-Russia insurgents have suffered significant losses, including many killed and injured, after his government launched an offensive on the eastern city of Slovyansk.
Oleksandr Turchynov said two Ukrainian soldiers were also killed and seven wounded in the clashes.
Earlier in the day, pro- Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters as the government began its offensive against an insurgency that has seized government buildings in the east.
Fighting broke out around dawn near Slovyansk, a city 100 miles from the Russian border that has become the focus of the armed insurgency against Ukraine’s interim government.
Two Ukrainian helicopter crew members were killed in the crashes, both sides said, and a pro-Russian militiaman was reported killed.
One of the helicopters was hit by a surface-to-air missile, the Ukrainian Security Service said, adding that the sophisticated weapon undercut Russia’s claims the city was simply under the control of armed locals. The service said its forces were fighting “highly skilled foreign military men” in Slovyansk.
The Kremlin said Kiev’s offensive “destroyed” the two-week-old agreement on cooling Ukraine’s crisis.
Journalists from Sky News, CBS News and Buzzfeed who were covering the unrest in eastern Ukraine have been freed after being detained by pro-Russia insurgents. Sky News offered no details about its crew but said they were released after being detained near Slovyansk.
The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting on the conflict after Russia called for public talks on the growing crisis.
The Russian mission to the United Nations tweeted that Moscow had asked for what will be the council’s 13th meeting on the crisis, and the spokesman’s office for the UN secretary-general confirmed the open meeting would be held yesterday.