Deadly Shootout at Sloviansk Breaks Ukraine's Easter Truce
The Easter truce in Ukraine did not last very long. A shootout at a checkpoint in Slovyansk was deadly, but no one can agree on the death toll. It was the first clash since the US, European Union, Ukraine, and Russia reached an agreement in Geneva to stop the violence in east Ukraine between pro-Russian forces and pro-Ukrainians.
Russia media said up to five were killed, Reuters claimed at least two were killed and Associated Press reported only one died. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said three people died. From The Kyiv Post:
A correspondent for Rossiya 24, a state-run news station, said four cars drove up to the checkpoint and opened fire at the pro-Russian militiamen guarding it, killing three of them and seriously injuring another. Two "attackers," shot by the pro-Russian group, were also killed, the correspondent said.
Vyatcheslav Ponomarev, a local separatist leader, told Russian media the battle broke out in a village east of Slovyansk, which is under the control of pro-Russian militants.
Russia’s Life News claimed to have proof Right Sector was behind the attack.
In a video report, Life News showed what it said was the body of one man killed during the shootout next to weapons, ammunition and gear left behind by Right Sector members at the scene. It also showed crisp U.S. $100 bills, uncreased printed satellite images of Slovyansk from Google Maps and a business card of Right Sector leader and presidential candidate Dmitro Yarosh that it said had been left by the "attackers."
The bodies were immediately taken away in a car and the Interior Ministry belives “the even to be fabricated.” The Security Service of Ukraine also believes the incident was fake and called it a “cynical provocation.”
The Russian media blamed the far-right group Right Sector for the violence, It is no secret Russia hates the party and dubbed them a terrorist group. In fact, the Kremlin forced the editor-in-chief at popular website Lenta.ru to resign after they published an interview with the Right Sector leader even though he Kremlin told the website not to publish it. The group instantly denied the accusations.
Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky said it was a "blasphemous provocation from Russia: blasphemous because it took place on a holy night for Christians, on Easter night. This was clearly carried out by Russian special forces."
The Kremlin used the incident as proof Kyiv cannot control people.
"The Easter truce has been violated," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "This provocation ... testifies to the lack of will on the part of the Kiev authorities to rein in and disarm nationalists and extremists."
Moscow also does not believe Ukraine will not uphold the Geneva agreement.
“The Russian side is outraged with the provocation, which indicates that Kyiv is unwilling to put in check and disarm nationalists and extremists,” the ministry said in a statement.
Moscow, the ministry added, “insists on the strict implementation by the Ukrainian side of its commitments to de-escalate the situation in southeastern Ukraine.”
Easter is the most important holiday on the Orthodox calendar and Ukraine called for a truce on Saturday. The government promised to stop the anti-terrorist operation against the pro-Russian forces and not to attack them during the holiday weekend.