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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Heavy Fighting Reported in Ukraine's Slovyansk

by VOA News May 05, 2014

Ukrainian government forces fought gun battles Monday with pro-Russian milititants in the separatist-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, a day after pro-Russian protesters stormed the police station in the southern city of Odessa.

Six people have been killed and around 100 wounded, said a Ukraine Security Service spokeswoman. Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a separatist source in Slovyansk as saying that 20 or more pro-Russian militants had been killed in the fighting.

Also, a Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down near Slovyansk on Monday, but the pilots survived, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said.

The helicopter, which came under fire from a heavy machine gun, crashed into a river. The ministry said in a statement the crew were evacuated to a nearby camp but did not give any detail of their condition.

At least three other helicopters have been shot down by pro-Russian rebels in recent weeks.

Moscow blames Kyiv

Meanwhile, Russia has called on the Kyiv government on Monday to stop using armed force against its people and enter talks aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that a humanitarian crisis was looming in blockaded towns in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been trying to dislodge pro-Russian separatists who have occupied official buildings.

It called on the Kyiv authorities "to come to their senses, stop the bloodshed, withdraw forces and finally sit down at the negotiating table to begin a normal dialogue about ways to resolve the political crisis."

Ukraine and the West blame Russia for the violence, accusing it of direct involvement in an effort to destabilize Ukraine, a charge Moscow denies.

Odessa

On Sunday in Odessa, hundreds of pro-Russian militants used a battering ram on one entrance to the police station before pushing their way in through a garage. Authorities freed more nearly 70 of the 150 people arrested two days earlier during clashes that led to a fire which killed 42 mostly pro-Russian activists.

Ukraine's prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, visited the port city Sunday, declaring Russia is seeking to destroy Ukraine by engineering clashes in eastern Ukraine and now Odessa. He accused Moscow of engaging in a 'well-planned provocation' against the interim Kyiv government.

Ukraine says it will continue pressing its military offensive against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, while the Kremlin reported receiving thousands of calls for help from the region's Russian-speaking citizenry.

Ukraine's acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Sunday that troops had recaptured a television tower and government buildings from rebels in Kramatorsk, a town near Slovyansk.

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council chief Andriy Parubiy said Sunday an anti-terrorist operation will be carried out in towns beyond Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had not yet decided how to respond to the offensive, or to the deaths in Odessa.

Russia has at least 40,000 troops and armor massed on its border with Ukraine, and the Kremlin says it reserves the right to enter the country to protect ethnic Russians.

Putin's new Nazi crimes law

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on Monday making the denial of Nazi crimes and distortion of the Soviet Union's role in World War II a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in jail.

The law, described by critics as an attempt to curb freedom of expression to appease conservative Russians, Putin's main support base, also criminalizes the desecration of war memorials.

The Kremlin has used World War II as a pillar to unite a society that Putin has said lost its moral bearings following the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Russian officials and media have raised the specter of Nazi Germany repeatedly during Moscow's confrontation with the West over Ukraine, calling the overthrow of Russia-allied president Viktor Yanukovych in February a coup carried out in part by "neo-Nazi" forces.

Some reporting by Reuters



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