Ukrainian Helicopter Shot Down Despite Cease Fire

The Ukrainian military is reporting that one of their helicopters was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in the east today, killing all nine people on board.

The incident, which occurred late Tuesday afternoon in eastern Ukraine, comes less than a week after Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, declared a cease-fire in Kiev’s fight against pro-Russian separatists.

CNN quotes Vladislav Seleznev, a spokesman for Ukraine’s anti-terror operation, in a report about the incident. According to Seleznev, a missile fired from a man-portable air-defense system shot the Mi-8 helicopter shortly after take off. Afterward, the militants who brought down the aircraft hid in the nearby village of Bylbasovka.

The cease-fire declared recently includes the closure of the Ukraine-Russia border, and President Poroshenko called for changes to Ukraine’s Constitution to decentralize power. The President also stated that military units would respond only if they’re attacked. The insurgents have fired on Ukrainian positions 35 times since the cease-fire was announced. He warned militants to abandon their weapons before the cease-fire expires on June 27.

According to BBC News, the rebels have not commented publicly on the shooting of the helicopter. However, the group has previously stated that they will not disarm until government troops have left eastern Ukraine.

Before today, the separatists had shot down at least two Ukrainian army helicopters and a plane. They continue to hold towns in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The news agency also reports that Russia denies accusations by Ukraine that Russian troops are helping and arming the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly spoke out in support of the cease fire. He appealed to both sides to stop military action and begin negotiations to end the conflict.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have become more intense in recent weeks. The United States also ramped up sanctions against Russia in an attempt to squeeze the nation into giving up the fight.

Earlier today, President Putin asked the Russian parliament to revoke the right of military intervention in Ukraine. The Daily Mail sees this as “a victory for the West’s threat of brutal new sanctions unless he backed peace moves in Ukraine.” Russian senators had granted Putin the right to send the army into Ukraine on March 1.

Shortly after the Ukrainian helicopter was shot down today, President Putin called for the cease-fire to be extended. He did not mention the downing of the aircraft.

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