Thursday, May 21 became incredibly deadly in east Ukraine when pro-Russian forces attacked Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint in Donetsk Oblast, which has been a volatile region after parliament ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine’s presidential election is on Sunday.
The soldiers were transported to a hospital in Volnovakha and a hospital worker told The Kyiv Post 13 soldiers were killed and 33 wounded. However, interim President Oleksandr Turchynov told Interfax-Ukraine 13 soldiers died and 20 were wounded.
Associated Press reporters were on the scene.
AP journalists saw 11 dead Ukrainian soldiers scattered around a checkpoint near the village of Blahodatne, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the major city of Donetsk. Witnesses including a medical worker said 33 Ukrainian troops were wounded in the attack and that some of them were in grave condition. All the wounded were being treated at nearby medical facilities.
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 22, 2014
— Graham (@gpjhill) May 22, 2014
An ambulance arrives at hospital morgue in Volnovakha. We counted three bodies taken inside in last 30 minutes pic.twitter.com/EmBFM7ip1a
— Kevin Bishop (@bishopk) May 22, 2014
This is a YouTube video that shows Ukrainian helicopters fighting off the pro-Russians.
According to The Kyiv Post, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said “that ‘terrorists’ armed with automatic rifles and anti-tank weapons attacked a Ukrainian military checkpoint near the Volnovakha area, Donetsk Oblast,” but did not say if any pro-Russians were killed. Residents told the AP the “attackers used an armored bank truck, which the unsuspecting Ukrainian soldiers waved through, and then mowed them down at point-black range.” A separatist commander in Horlivka claimed responsibility.
“We destroyed a checkpoint of the fascist Ukrainian army deployed on the land the Donetsk Republic,” said the commander, who wore a balaclava and identified himself by his nom de guerre, “Bes,” [sic] Russian for “demon.” He said one of his men was also killed.
“The weapons you see here have been taken from the dead, they are trophies,” the rebel commander said, showing automatic and sniper rifles, rocket grenade launchers and bulletproof vests in the courtyard of the occupied Horlivka police headquarters.
“People living in western Ukraine: Think about where you are sending your brothers, fathers and sons, and why you need any of this,” he added.
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting: “We are addressing our partners at the UN Security Council to immediately convene a UN Security Council session. We will present evidence proving that attempts to escalate the conflict […] and disrupt the presidential elections have been made on the part of Russia,” he told journalists in Kiev on Thursday, adding that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had forwarded a note to Moscow accusing it of fueling the conflict.