Pro-Russian militants have gunned down a Ukrainian National Guard Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter near the eastern city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region, killing 12 people.
The Ukrainian National Guard said in a statement that soldiers, including six servicemen of the National Guard and six members of the Ukraine Special Forces, were killed when the helicopter, which was carrying supplies, was shot down.
"One soldier of the National Guard of Ukraine survived and is in a critical condition. The details and the circumstances of the attack are currently being investigated," the statement said, adding that rebels who attacked the helicopter were later eliminated in an ‘anti-terror’ operation.
However, Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov told parliament that the incident claimed the lives of 14 soldiers, including an army general.
A Russian-built portable air-defence missile system was used by rebels, Turchynov said.
The incident, which represents one of the heaviest losses suffered by the Ukrainian Army during two months of political turmoil, follows a fierce assault by the security forces against insurgents who took control of part of Sergei Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk earlier this week, which killed dozens of rebels.
Ukraine is continuing its anti-terrorist operation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as it attempts to drive out pro-Moscow rebels who have occupied government buildings and also set up checkpoints, demanding greater autonomy from the new Ukrainian Government and closer ties with Russia.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has called for an immediate end to military action, and urged Ukraine to start a real political dialogue with all political forces and representatives of the regions.
Image: A Ukrainian Army Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter in flight. Photo: courtesy of LTC Taras Gren.