Ukraine Helicopter Shot Down in Slovyansk
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Pro-Russian forces in Slovyansk shot down a Ukraine army helicopter, killing a pilot and wounding others soldiers, after the army launched an operation against the separatist stronghold.
The Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said on Friday that one helicopter pilot had died and others wounded after separatists used man-portable missiles against his troops.
On his Facebook page, Avakov posted: "Against Ukraine's special forces, terrorists used heavy artillery, including grenade launchers and portable anti-aircraft missile launchers. One pilot is dead and there are wounded."
Avakov's statement was posted hours after separatists said the Ukrainian army had launched a "major offensive" against the town, in the east of the country.
Slovyansk's separatist-appointed mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, was quoted by Russia's Interfax agency as saying two helicopters had been shot down and one pilot taken hostage. The statement could not be verified.
Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull, reporting from nearby Donetsk, said Russian TV had broadcast footage of what appeared to be a wounded and distressed Ukranian pilot being taken prisoner. The footage could not be independently verified.
Armed groups seeking union with Russia have seized a number of government buildings in towns in eastern Ukraine.
Slovyansk has become a stronghold for separatists, and there have been regular clashes between pro-Russians and Ukrainian troops. Last week, Kiev sent troops to dismantle several roadblocks but withdrew forces soon after.
Russia has warned Ukraine it must not launch attacks on Ukrainian civilians, who it says have legitimate concerns. Kiev says the separatists are being boosted by Russian soldiers.