‘Green men’ fleeing Ukraine’s Sloviansk? (videos)

Ukrainian police, National Guard and army have resumed a counterterrorist operation in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine. Nine roadblocks established by the pro-Russia protesters were taken over by Ukrainian forces. Two (or three) military helicopters were shot down by pro-Russian rebels.

The operation, also targeting the town of Kramatorsk, appears to be the most significant yet by the Ukrainian military against pro-Russia groups who’ve taken effective control of swaths of eastern Ukraine.

Two Mi24 helicopters have been taken down with mobile air defense systems, killing two military officers and injuring others, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry website. Another army helicopter was damaged but no one was hurt, the statement said.

{movie}Wounded pilot in Sloviansk.|right|16222{/movie}

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said a pilot had been killed and ‘some others’ were injured. Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, said one helicopter had been taken down, leading to the death of one pilot while another was taken hostage.

Describing the use of anti-aircraft missiles as proof of the presence of Russian special forces in the town that has become the military stronghold of the pro-Moscow movement, Ukrainian officials said Sloviansk was ‘tightly surrounded’ and called on separatist leaders to release hostages and surrender.

Reuters journalists in the city of 130,000 heard shooting from shortly after 4 am and saw a military helicopter open fire. Ukrainian troops could be in seen in armoured personnel carriers in a southern suburb.

“The terrorists opened fire at Ukrainian units with some heavy guns, including grenade launchers and portable air defense systems,” Mr Avakov said, in a post on his official Facebook page.

Residents of Sloviansk were warned to stay home and avoid approaching windows on May 2 as Ukrainian security forces launched the operation aimed at dislodging separatist militants. The separatists are hiding among the civilian population and ‘shoot from the windows of residential apartments,’ he said, aware that the Ukrainian forces have been told not to fire toward homes.

{movie}Separatists are waiting for a storm.|right|16223{/movie}

‘If I don’t have a submachine gun I will be fighting and killing them with bare hands. I will be gripping them by the throats so that there will be no fascism and Nazism here, on this land,’ a separatist says.

The SBU also accused separatist leaders of ordering activists to use residents as a human shield within the city and at checkpoints.

Referring to their own information, Ukraine’s group ‘Information Resistance’ says that separatists are taking cars from local citizens: ‘We suggest that terrorists will be trying to flee the blocked town by cars. It has become known that Russian subversives that make up the main body of terrorist forces have an intention to get to the border with Russia. In this case local separatists will have to solve their problems on their own.’

Previous phases of the ‘counterterrorist operation’ by the Ukrainian forces have not resulted in any significant gains.

www.belsat.eu/en, following reuters.com, cnn.com

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