More clashes between Ukrainian and Pro-Russian separatists are being reported as Ukraine increases its crackdown on regions taken over by the separatists. On Monday, Ukraine began a heavy crackdown on the city of Slovyansk, a major flashpoint in the battle between the two sides. Reports show that Ukraine has been largely successful an taking back the main highway in the region, a foothold formerly held by the separatists. Ukraine is carrying on a large scale military operation to take back buildings and cities that have been taken over by Russian separatists.
Ukrainian security forces battled pro-Russian militants in the eastern flashpoint city of Slovyansk on Monday as Kiev tackled the gunmen who have overrun the region.
Military gains were evident on the main highway into Slovyansk, a rebel stronghold, as government forces moved in.
A CNN team on the ground saw a substantial number of militants bolster their defensive positions and checkpoints inside the city. One civilian car was hit in the fighting, its exterior damaged by bullet holes.
At a local hospital, the CNN team saw several people injured from the heavy clashes. One woman had been shot in the head, probably in a crossfire, and two pro-Russian militants were also brought in.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said four people were killed and nearly 30 injured in the city. It quoted local residents as saying the attackers had shot at residential buildings and set them on fire. Militants blamed Ukrainian forces for the civilian casualties.
In a separate statement, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said a military helicopter was shot down “during a combat mission and patrolling in the area” of Slovyansk on Monday, but the pilots survived after it crashed into a river. They were later rescued.
Ukraine’s embattled new leaders have launched their most intensive effort yet to dislodge pro-Russian separatists who have reportedly seized government buildings in nearly a dozen cities and towns.
Kiev authorities describe the separatists as “terrorists.” But the rebels say they are defending Russian-speaking areas of the east against Ukrainian “fascists” trying to root out Russian influence in the country.