Downed by Russian missile, says Kiev; Moscow calls for an end to ‘fratricidal war’

Pro-independence militia downed a Ukrainian military helicopter on Thursday killing a general and at least 11 troops even as Russia demanded that Kiev stop a “fratricidal war” in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeast.

A Mi-8 transport helicopter was shot down near Sloviansk by a “Russian” portable air defence missile, Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told the Ukrainian Parliament.

Attack on Sloviansk

Mr. Turchynov put the death toll at 14, but the Ukrainian National Guard later said 12 servicemen, including a Major General, had died and one soldier was gravely wounded.

The helicopter was brought down after Ukrainian artillery resumed bombardment of residential areas in Sloviansk, which is one of the main rebel strongholds in Donetsk region. At least four civilians were killed and a dozen wounded in Ukrainian artillery fire on Wednesday.

In another coup for insurgents, they disarmed about 80 Ukrainian servicemen at a military base near Luhansk. The soldiers, who were mostly local recruits, surrendered after their parents persuaded the commanding officer to let them go home.

Rebel leaders in Sloviansk said they had reached agreement with Ukrainian forces to allow the evacuation of children from the city.

On Thursday, the first convoy of buses with 170 schoolchildren left Sloviansk for Crimea, which two months ago broke away from Ukraine and reunited with Russia. Crimean authorities have invited children from eastern Ukraine to vacation at summer camps on the Black Sea.

Moscow on Thursday demanded that Ukrainian authorities “stop the fratricidal war and start a credible national dialogue with all political forces and representatives of the country’s regions for ways of leading Ukraine out of its deep crisis.” The Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement urged Western powers to “use their leverage with Kiev to stop Ukraine from sliding to national catastrophe.”

Casualty figures

Ukraine’s National Guard said on Thursday it had lost 30 men killed since the beginning of the “anti-terrorist operation” in the east. Total losses of the Ukrainian forces, which also include army units and volunteer militia, have not been reported.

People’s Mayor of Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, told reporters on Thursday that the Ukrainian military had lost 1,200 to 1,300 men killed and another 4,500 wounded near Sloviansk alone.

A Russian General Staff official was quoted on Thursday as estimating that Ukrainian forces deployed against the rebels included about 300 Ukrainian militants who had fought in Syria on the side of the opposition.

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