At roughly the same time that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Barack Obama were holding a joint press conference, Russia was calling a meeting of the United Nation’s Security Counsel, the Acting President of the Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov was detailing the deterioration of “peace” in Eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces have lost two soldiers so far with the Ukranian president saying that “many” pro-Russia rebels were killed, wounded and arrested in the eastern city of Slovyansk.
The news website www.o1.ua also reported that a loyalist was killed and handfuls injured in the port city of Odessa when a unity march when wrong. The news site also reported that the man killed was covered in the street by a Ukrainian flag.
Turchynov barked that pro-Russian insurgents in the city were hiding “behind the citizens” and “firing from apartment blocks.”
“We demand that the terrorists, saboteurs, all those who took up arms against our country, to lay down their arms, surrender, release hostages and administrative buildings,” he said in a statement.
Slovyansk under siege
Slovyansk is located just 100 miles west of the Russian border where some 40,000 Russian troops are standing by at the ready. The Ukrainian Security Service stated that it was involved in pitched battles with “highly skilled foreign military men” in the city.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov added that Slovyansk is now isolated by Ukranian forces now that have taken over numerous roadblocks that were held by separatists just yesterday.
While Russia is claiming that the Ukraine is involved in “punitive attacks” two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down by surface-to-air missiles near Slovyansk killing two. Those that Ukrainian forces believe were responsible have been arrested.
Russian response to Ukraine’s offence
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the offensive “effectively destroyed the last hope for the implementation of the Geneva agreements” that were put in place in the hopes of avoiding further a further escalation of hostilities.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry rejected the accusations, saying Russia ” did not take any steps to de-escalate the situation and fulfill the Geneva agreements.”
“Russia strongly supports terrorist groups that operate in the eastern regions of Ukraine, endangering civilians, taking hostages and building the atmosphere of terror and violence,” the ministry added.
Slovyansk’s self-proclaimed mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, released a video addressed to local citizens, asking women and children to stay home, and calling on men who have weapons to help defend the city.
“We were attacked. Our city is under siege. There are losses,” said self-proclaimed mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov . “I think we will defend the city. We will win.”
The offensive was launched just a day after Putin warned that the Ukraine should withdraw its military from the east and south of the country.
Videos posted online show some Slovyansk citizens cheering as a Ukrainian helicopter is brought down. But some in the east believe the supporters are stuck in an old way of thinking.
“The Ukrainian government has now decided to take a more decisive approach,” said Susan Stewart, deputy head of the Eastern Europe and Eurasia Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, in Berlin.