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Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown in Moscow on June 23, 2014. (RIA NOVOSTI/REUTERS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown in Moscow on June 23, 2014. (RIA NOVOSTI/REUTERS)

Rebels down Ukrainian helicopter as Putin reins in Russian forces Add to ...

Rebels shot down a Ukrainian helicopter carrying technicians who had been installing equipment to monitor violations of a peace plan in Ukraine’s rebellious east on Tuesday, killing all nine people on board, a military spokesman said.

The technicians had been returning from setting up specialized equipment when their Mi-8 cargo helicopter was struck by a rebel missile near Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine, government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said.

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“There were nine people on board. According to preliminary information … all those on board were killed,” Seleznyov said on his Facebook page. The nine dead included a three-man crew. “The (rebel) fighters, having fired the rocket, hid in the nearby village of Bylbasovka,” he said.

The incident took place just hours after pro-Russian separatists on Monday night announced a ceasefire until June 27 to match a week-long truce by government forces that has been ordered by President Petro Poroshenko.

Poroshenko said later that he may terminate the ceasefire ahead of time because of continuing rebel attacks.


President Vladimir Putin asked Russia’s upper house on Tuesday to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin’s spokesman said Putin’s move was aimed at assisting the fledgling peace talks to end the conflict in east Ukraine, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.

Poroshenko called it a “first practical step” following Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko’s peace plan for eastern Ukraine.

In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to “use the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in that country normalizes.” That resolution, together with Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, helped to send East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.

Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said the chamber would discuss Putin’s request on June 25. The deputy head of the chamber’s international affairs committee, Andrei Klimov, said he expected the resolution to pass, according to the RIA Novosti agency.


Poroshenko said on Tuesday pro-Russian separatists in the east had violated a ceasefire with overnight attacks that killed one government soldier. “Unfortunately there were violations of the ceasefire from the other side. Last night there were another eight cases, one soldier was killed, seven were wounded,” the president’s press service quoted Poroshenko as saying during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Separately, spokesman Seleznyov said two Ukrainian servicemen had been killed when rebels fired at two military roadblocks on Tuesday.

In the rebel stronghold of Slavyansk, separatists appeared to be dissociating themselves from the ceasefire agreement. “Talks with them [the Kiev government] are possible only from a position of force and no other way. We should not trust a single letter,” said Igor Strelkov, the top rebel commander in Slavyansk, as quoted on the Facebook page of Pavel Gubarev, self-styled governor of the Donetsk People’s Republic.


Poroshenko's week-long ceasefire should be extended and accompanied by talks between the government and the rebels, Putin said on a trip to Vienna on Tuesday, adding that the end of hostilities must be accompanied by talks.

Putin emphasized the need to respect the ceasefire, and claimed that the Ukrainian forces broke it by launching a raid in Slavyansk.


Ukraine has accused Russian troops of planting land mines on its territory during Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region earlier this year.

Ukraine made the allegation in a report to an international land-mine conference being held this week in the southern African nation of Mozambique. Ukraine’s delegation is not attending the meeting in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital.

Russia set up fields of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines between Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking Crimea and the rest of Ukraine, and also seized 605 anti-personnel land mines stored at a Ukrainian military depot in the Saki area of Crimea, according to the report. It said Ukraine was allowed to keep the land mines for training under the international Mine Ban Treaty, which seeks an end to the use, production and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines. Russia is not a signatory to the treaty.

Associated Press's calls to the Russian Defence Ministry spokesman seeking comment went unanswered on Tuesday.

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