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Ukraine military chopper shot down by pro-Russian rebels, 14 killed

In the latest incident that signals the escalation of pro-Russian unrest in the country, Ukrainian military helicopter is reported to have been gunned down by rebels.

Updated: May 29, 2014, 16:52 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Kiev: In the latest incident that signals the escalation of pro-Russian unrest in the country, a Ukrainian military helicopter was on Thursday gunned down by rebels, killing 14 troops including an Army General, said outgoing President Olexander Turchynov.

Turchynov said that the terrorists used a "Russian man-portable air defence system" to shoot down the helicopter that killed fourteen servicemen, including General Volodymyr Kulchytskiy.

According to the BBC, pro-Russian rebels shot down the military helicopter after dropping off troops at a military base near eastern Ukraine town of Sloviansk.

The helicopter was hit during heavy fighting between Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, added the report.

Pledging to curb the unrest in eastern Ukraine, President-elect Petro Poroshenko said he would deal firmly with "bandits" and "murderers".

The gunning down of the government helicopter comes just after the self-proclaimed pro-Russian "people`s mayor" of Slovyansk today confirmed that they were holding captive four observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Four OSCE monitors, Turkey, Switzerland, Estonia and Denmark, were said to be missing since Monday evening.

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed "people`s mayor" of Slovyansk, a city in the Donetsk region, told The Associated Press that the monitors were safe and released imminently.

We have “addressed the OSCE mission to warn them that their people should not over the coming week travel in areas under our control. And they decided to show up anyway," Ponomarev said.

"We will deal with this and then release them," he said, without setting any specific conditions or timeframe.

The OSCE said it had lost contact with one of its four-man monitoring teams in Donetsk on Monday evening. Rebels have previously kidnapped military observers working under the auspices of the OSCE.

The OSCE monitors have been deployed to Ukraine to monitor security situation following Russia`s annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russia separatist insurgency that has engulfed regions in eastern Ukraine. They also observed Sunday`s presidential vote, won by billionaire candy magnate Petro Poroshenko.

The Kiev government condemns the roiling insurgency as the work of "terrorists" bent on destroying the country and blames Russia for fomenting it.
Russia denies the accusations, saying it has no influence over rebels, who insist they are only protecting the interests of the Russian-speaking population of the east.

The rebels have declared the Donetsk and Luhansk regions independent following controversial referendums rejected as a sham by Ukraine and the West. 

With Agency Inputs