Ukraine has launched the second phase of an operation to drive out pro-Russia activists from the country’s eastern cities.
Interim authorities in Kiev said on Friday that army units have begun the second phase of an operation to drive out pro-Russia activists from the country’s eastern cities.
The acting Head of Presidential Administration of Ukraine Serhiy Pashynsky said the second stage of the operation has kicked off in the city of Slavyansk, which is held by pro-Russia protesters.
“In the framework of the anti-terrorist operation, the second phase was launched 20 minutes ago. The goal [of the second phase] is to surround the city of Slavyansk completely, in order to isolate the problem. Currently the operation is going on,” he said.
The first stage of the operation began on Thursday, when Ukrainian troops entered the eastern city, killing at least five pro-Russian protesters.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military helicopter exploded at an airfield in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, 15 kilometers from Slavyansk, on Friday.
There are conflicting reports on how the chopper was targeted. Some reports say it was hit by a rocket propelled grenade while others claim it was attacked by a sniper.
In another development, seven people were injured in the early hours of Friday when a grenade was thrown at a checkpoint outside the port city of Odessa.
According to reports, the checkpoint has been manned by pro-Kiev gunmen.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced Kiev’s operations in the eastern part of the country as a “bloody crime,” saying the Ukrainian government is waging a war on its own people.