Fourteen people were killed when rebels in Ukraine shot down an army helicopter near the city of Sloviansk, in one of the deadliest attacks sustained by Ukrainian forces since the pro-Russian unrest began in April.
Outgoing president Oleksander Turchynov said today that "I have just received information that terrorists using Russian anti-aircraft missiles shot down our helicopter near Sloviansk. It had been ferrying servicemen for a change of duty," adding that General Volodymyr Kulchitsky was among those killed. According to Turchynov, rebels used a portable air defense missile — not the kind of hardware you'd expect from a local citizen's militia — to target the aircraft. The Associated Press describes conditions on the ground:
An Associated Press reporter saw the helicopter's go down and the trail of black smoke it left before crashing. Gunshots were heard around Slovyansk near the crash site and a Ukrainian air force jet was seen circling above. It was too dangerous to visit the site itself.
Pro-Russian separatists have sustained a heightened number of losses since the country's new president, confectionary magnate Petro Poroshenko, was voted into office this week. (An official vote tally released on Thursday confirms that Poroshenko won the election with 54 percent of the vote.) A failed attempt to seize an airport in Donetsk cost the rebels 100 lives, according to one separatist leader.
Meanwhile, pro-Russia insurgents have confirmed the capture of four missing Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors. Vyacheslav Ponomarev, who calls himself the people's mayor of Sloviansk, told the AP that those being held are safe, adding that "I addressed the OSCE mission to warn them that their people should not over the coming week travel in areas under our control. And they decided to show up anyway... we will deal with this and then release them." OSCE has been tasked with trying to stabilize the situation in the country, a task which appears to be increasingly more difficult, despite the new transfer of power.