Kiev: A Ukrainian plane was shot down as fighting continued in the east of the country today, amid signs the government was losing control of parts of its border with Russia.
A police officer was killed and two others injured in the attack near the separatist stronghold of Slavyansk by pro-Russian rebels who launched a mortar attack on a checkpoint after taking up position in a church, deputy interior minister Serhiy Yarovy said.
Also near Slavyansk today, separatists shot down an An-26 military transport plane, a spokesman of the Ukrainian army was quoted as telling local media.
The aircraft was carrying humanitarian aid to the local population, Vladislav Seleznyov said according to Interfax Ukraine agency.
The military spokesman was not able to account for the fate of the crew, but Interfax Ukraine quoted witnesses as saying they had managed to eject from the plane before it crashed. The size of the crew was not immediately clear.
As violence continued throughout the nation`s vast and heavily industrialised east, the authorities seemed to be losing control of the frontier with Russia.
The border post at Severnyi, 70 kilometres from the city of Lugansk, was completely deserted today.
Pro-Russian fighters of the self-proclaimed "People`s Republic of Lugansk" had ordered the Ukrainian border guards to leave, a local resident said. "They departed yesterday," he said.
Two border barriers had been lifted and anyone was able to cross.
The "People`s Republic of Lugansk" claims to be in control of up to 200 kilometres of border. Ukrainian authorities admitted for the first time yesterday that they had been forced to abandon some checkpoints.
The porous border is likely to complicate efforts by Ukraine`s government to re-impose its authority in the east.
The government in Kiev says truckloads of armed men and military equipment are attempting to cross every day to support the rebels.