Overnight Shootout in Ukraine’s Slaviansk – Victims and Calls to Send Russian Peacekeepers

A Pro-Russian militant walks past burnt cars near a checkpoint that was the scene of a gunfight overnight near the city of Slaviansk, April 20, 2014

MOSCOW, April 20 (RIA Novosti) – A curfew has been announced in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk after a group of unknown gunmen launched a deadly attack on a checkpoint near the city early Sunday as people were celebrating Easter.

Before the incident, unknown attackers opened fire in downtown Slaviank, injuring two local citizens. Both of them are in a satisfactory condition, doctors at the central city hospital said.

The leader of self-defense forces, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, known as “acting Slaviansk mayor,” said the attack came in violation of the cease-fire announced ahead of Easter celebrations across Ukraine on Sunday and called on Russia to send its peacekeepers to the region.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry confirmed that three people, including two local citizens, were killed and three others were injured in the overnight shootout. Two of the injured received medical aid and refused to be admitted to hospital.

The attackers, estimated by the ministry at around 12, fled the crime scene and headed to the neighboring Kharkiv region, taking the injured and killed people with them.

Shells and foreign-made explosives, a map of Slaviansk, as well as insignia of the Ukrainian far-right movement Right Sector were reportedly found at the scene of the attack.

Self-defense forces have announced a mobilization as situation remains tense in the city.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the attack as “provocation” saying it shows Kiev’s reluctance to disarm nationalists and extremists.

Broken Truce

Ahead of the shootout, self-defense forces in the industrial region of Donbas announced the Easter cease-fire. Self-defense forces said now the cease-fire has been broken, condemning the deadly incident as “provocation.”

A senior commander of Donetsk’s self-defense forces, Sergei Tsyplakov, said the attack signals Kiev’s reluctance to fulfill its obligations under the Geneva deal reached on April 17.

In a bid to de-escalate the conflict, top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union approved a set of measures in Geneva, including a call for constitutional reform. Kiev suspended the active phase of the special operation and taken on responsibilities to disarm militants.

“The Geneva agreements were immediately violated, the very same day,” Tsyplakov said claiming that several people were kidnapped and the Kiev regime continued its political repression against pro-federalization activists.

Moscow Outraged

Russia is outraged by the provocation in Slaviansk, which demonstrates the reluctance of Kiev to hold back and disarm nationalists and extremists, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

“It is surprising that this tragedy happened after signing the Declaration on April 17 in Geneva as the result of the four-way talks with representatives of Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine, which called to refrain from all acts of violence, intimidation and provocation,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Slaviansk Calls for Peacekeepers

The leader of self-defense forces, Ponomaryov, has asked the Russian leadership to send peacekeeping forces to protect pro-federalization protesters from the Right Sector and the National Guard of Ukraine.

“They are killing our brothers. They don’t talk to us, they just kill,” Ponomaryov said.

Ponomaryov said “today the city is under siege from the Right Sector,” and only Russia can protect the citizens, adding that he has asked President Vladimir Putin to send peacekeepers to the Donetsk and Luhank regions.

Moscow has not yet commented on the request.

During a Q&A session on Thursday, Putin said he hoped that he would not have to use the right to order the deployment of Russia’s military forces in Ukraine.

“I remind you that the Russian Federation Council has given the president the right to use the armed forces in Ukraine. I hope that I won’t have to use this right and that we will be able to solve all the pressing problems in Ukraine today by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said.

Federalization supporters in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Gorlovka, Slaviansk and Kramatorsk have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the current Ukrainian government and are urging interim authorities to hold referendums similar to the one held in Crimea last month, which led to the republic’s reunification with Russia.

In response, Ukrainian authorities launched a special operation to crack down on the protests.

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