Separatists shoot down Ukraine military plane

2014-06-14 08:31
Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk, Ukraine. (File, AP)

Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk, Ukraine. (File, AP)

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Kiev - Pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane near the eastern city of Lugansk, killing troops on board, the defence ministry said on Saturday as the US accused Russia of sending tanks and rocket launchers to the pro-Moscow rebels.

"The terrorists cynically and treacherously fired with a large-calibre machinegun hitting an Ilyushin-76 of the Ukrainian air force which was carrying troops on rotation and was about to land at Lugansk airport," the ministry said in a statement.

The four-engine jet was also carrying "equipment".

The ministry offered its condolences to the families of the "killed soldiers", with military spokesperson Vladislav Seleznov saying that  49 had died.

Lugansk, which is close to the Russian border, is the main city of one of two eastern regions hit by pro-Moscow separatist violence and which has declared its independence from Kiev.

Tanks

An "anti-terrorist" clampdown by Ukrainian armed forces has left at least 270 people dead over the past two months.

The attack came less than a week after the rebels fighting Ukraine's Western-backed government launched attacks on Lugansk International Airport.

The assaults, which took place on Saturday evening and Sunday morning in the immediate wake of the inauguration of Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko, did not result in any injuries among the defenders.

But one of the Ukrainian paratroopers guarding the airport said at the time it was clear the rebels were trying to destroy the building which controls the power supply to the airport.

The US on Friday accused Russia of sending tanks and rocket launchers to pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine as Kiev's resurgent forces hoisted the national flag over a strategic rebel-held port amid fears of possible Russian gas cuts.

Moscow said Ukrainian tanks had crossed the border into its territory before being intercepted, a day after Ukraine alleged that three tanks had crossed from Russia into its territory, underscoring the growing tensions between Kiev and Moscow.

Poroshenko told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the tanks' crossing into the former Soviet republic's separatist east was "unacceptable".

Washington backed Kiev's claims, saying separatists in eastern Ukraine had also obtained multiple rocket launchers from Russia among other heavy weapons and military equipment.

The US has "information that Russia has accumulated tanks of a type no longer used by Russian forces at a deployment site in southwest Russia, and some of these tanks recently departed", State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said on Friday.

"We are confident that these tanks came from Russia," she added, noting that no Ukrainian tank units have been operating in the area.

Earlier, she told reporters that a convoy of three T-64 tanks, several BM-21 or Grad multiple rocket launchers and other military vehicles had "crossed from Russia into Ukraine".

Read more on:    us  |  russia  |  ukraine  |  security
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