United Nations: Expressing grave concern over rising tensions in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on all parties to "redouble" their efforts to revive the "spirit of compromise" as an urgent session of the UNSC was convened to address the crisis.
Ban expressed concern in the wake of events in the crisis-gripped city of Slovyansk, where two Ukrainian military helicopters were shot down overnight and a group of European observes captured on April 26 remain in detention.
Briefing the UNSC on the "severe deterioration" in Ukraine`s eastern and southern region yesterday, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman read out a statement in which Ban said the escalating violence and reported further loss of life in Slovyansk, occupied by armed separatist insurgents since April 12 "is a stark reminder of how dangerous the situation has become."
The UN chief urged all sides to exercise "maximum restraint" and appealed to those with grievances to voice them peacefully, so as to avoid more bloodshed.
The Secretary-General also called for all parties to respect fully Ukraine`s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He stressed that a diplomatic solution is the only way out of the crisis and that all sides "must redouble their efforts to revive the spirit of compromise displayed during the April 17 Geneva talks" between Ukraine, Russia, the US and the European Union.
In the Geneva talks an accord was reached on a series of steps to de-escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine, reportedly including demobilising militias and vacating seized government buildings.
In addition, the UN chief announced that Feltman would travel to Kiev and Moscow next week where the Under Secretary-General is expected to meet with senior officials and international partners to promote de-escalation and reiterate the Secretary-General`s strong message that "all actors need to exercise utmost caution to prevent the extremely fragile situation from spinning out of control."
Meanwhile, Feltman apprised the Security Council with troubling details about recent events which he said "threaten a serious destabilisation of the country and the region as well as the unity of Ukraine itself."
In more than a dozen other cities in Donetsk Oblast and Luhansk, an increasing number of buildings are being held by armed groups.
As for the situation in the eastern city of Slovyansk, he explained that the city of 125,000 in Donetsk Oblast has been occupied by armed insurgents since April 12.
During the ongoing operations by the authorities, according to Ukraine`s Ministry of Defense, two helicopters were shot down overnight with at least one pilot killed.
A number of other casualties have also been reported on the ground on both sides. "The total cannot at this stage be completely verified. The acting Minister of Interior has stated that a number of road blocks have been removed from around the city but from the media, we understand, that tense standoffs continue at least in parts of and around the city," Feltman said.
At the same time, the seven military observers under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and accompanying Ukrainian military staff being held by gunmen in Slovyansk remain in detention.
Feltman noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin has dispatched a Special Presidential Envoy to assist in the freeing the hostages. "I reiterate the Secretary-General`s call to those responsible for their abduction to release them immediately, unconditionally and unharmed," Feltman said.