Report: At Least Four Ukrainian Soldiers Dead in Sloviansk

Report: At Least Four Ukrainian Soldiers Dead in Sloviansk

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry is reporting four soldiers were killed after a shootout in Sloviansk. Pro-Russian forces have a stronghold on Sloviansk since mid-April, but the Ukrainian army has pushed back and gained control of at least nine checkpoints.

However, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said over “800 heavily armed pro-Russian separatists” attacked Ukrainian forces at 10:45AM local time.

The separatists opened fire on Ukrainian forces from behind unarmed civilians, who were used as human shields, and set fire to cars and nearby buildings, according to a statement from Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

“In the morning, a squad in the anti-terrorist operation was hit by an ambush by terrorist groups. They are using heavy weapons,” Avakov said.

The fighting did not stop and at 2:45PM the pro-Russians shot down another Ukraine helicopter into a river. The pilots escaped uninjured. However, other soldiers and civilians were not so lucky.

Both pro-Russian separatists and local civilians were among those killed during the fierce morning confrontation that unfolded near a checkpoint on the city’s southeast border recaptured by Ukrainian forces and visited by Mashable over the weekend. An army captain said his men had rolled in on armored personnel vehicles and engaged armed rebels guarding the checkpoint. They set it ablaze in an attempt to deter the Ukrainian soldiers, but they soon retreated after taking fire. On Sunday, the checkpoint smoldered for several hours.

The pro-Russian forces claim they lost 20 fighters and between 12 to 15 people injured. Yet, one pro-Russian leader said their side only lost 10 and 20-25 were injured. There has not been any confirmation for the casualties and wounded on the pro-Russian side.

Residents and news outlets tweeted pictures of the fighting. The intense fighting left the city empty during the day.