Pro-Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian helicopter in Kramatorsk, according to the Kyiv Post, as Ukraine claims Russia wants to start World War III. At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered Ukraine a proposal to help alleviate the tensions in east Ukraine.
The attacked llegedly occurred at 11:30AM Ukraine time.
Witnesses reported hearing explosions from the base around 11:30 a.m. Dmitry Tymchuk, a defense expert and director of the Center of Military and Political Research in Kyiv, told reporters that the Mi-8 helicopter had exploded upon take-off and the pilot managed to escape with minor injuries.
[Head of Ukrainian Security Service’s Anti-Terrorist Center Vasyl] Krutov said the helicopter was fired upon, causing it to blow up. “Yes, indeed, a helicopter at the airfield in Kramatorsk was shot by a single sniper bullet. The shot was made at the fuel tank. Due to this there was an explosion,” he told reporters.
Kramatorsk is nine miles from Sloviansk. Violence and kidnappings are a regular occurrence in Sloviansk. American journalist Simon Ostrovsky was taken over the weekend and released on Thursday. Unfortunately, the pro-Russian forces are still holding many journalists and politicians. On Wednesday, the tortured body of Volodymyr Rybak was found with a sandbag around his waist and his stomach slashed.
The Ukrainian army and the West blame Russia for the escalating violence and tensions in east Ukraine. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told his interim cabinet Russia wants to start World War III.
“The world has not yet forgotten world war two, but Russia already wants to start world war three,” he told his interim cabinet in remarks broadcast live. “Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe.”
In some of the strongest language he has used so far during the crisis, Yatseniuk accused Moscow of acting like a gangster supporting terrorists.
“It is clear that Russia’s goal is to wreck the election in Ukraine, remove the pro-western and pro-Ukrainian government and occupy Ukraine politically as well as military,” he added.
“Russia’s support for terrorists and bandits who torture peaceful citizens is an international crime. It is a crime against humanity,” added the prime minister.
But Lavrov proposed a new peace proposal with Ukraine to expand on the Geneva agreement between Russia, Ukraine, US and European Union. In the agreement, Ukraine promised amnesty for the pro-Russian forces if they leave the government buildings and hand in weapons. The forces said no one will leave the buildings until protesters leave the government buildings in Kyiv. These people occupied Independence Square and buildings during the three-month protests against now ousted Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych. The pro-Russian forces said the Maidan occupiers are also illegal. Lavrov said the pro-Russians will leave when Maidan protesters leave.
In his remarks on Friday, Lavrov said the pro-Russian militias in the east “will be ready” to lay down arms and vacate the buildings “only if Kiev authorities get down to implementing the Geneva accords, clear out that shameful Maidan [Independence Square] and liberate the buildings that have been illegally seized”.
Maidan protesters, who have shown disgust and impatience with the new government in Kyiv, said no one will leave until real reforms are passed and after the May 25 presidential election. They disapprove of Kyiv’s slow response to the situation in east Ukraine.