Ukraine troops blockade Slovyansk; dozens dead in Odessa clash

Ukraine troops blockade Slovyansk; dozens dead in Odessa clash

During the assault on Slovyansk, militants shot down two helicopters, killing two pilots, the Defense Ministry said. Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a statement that “many” rebels were killed, wounded or captured.

Interior Ministry troops seized nine rebel checkpoints in Slovyansk, detaining four rebels, according to Avakov, who called the operation “effective.” While the city is blockaded, fighting hasn’t reached its center, Russia’s state-owned Rossiya 24 television reported.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the use of advanced weapons showed the separatists were “professional saboteur groups” rather than peaceful protesters. In a statement, it called their tactics “characteristic of foreign military or mercenaries.” …

Odessa Clashes

Deadly violence also erupted in southern Ukraine. Avakov said earlier on Ukrainian TV Channel 5 that 35 people had died when the trade-union building in Odessa was set afire during clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russia groups.

U.S. intelligence officials have warned for at least a month of a possible Russian-orchestrated campaign in Odessa similar to those in Crimea and the far eastern regions of Ukraine. Not only does the port city have economic and military significance, it also sits between Crimea and pro-Russian areas in eastern Ukraine and the breakaway Transnistria region of neighboring Moldova.

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