Ukraine Rebels Down Helicopters
Government tries to retake pro-Russia stronghold
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2014 5:00 AM CDT
Local citizens marched Soviet flags as they marked May Day in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine yesterday.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

(Newser) – Ukrainian forces—declining to follow Russia's suggestion that they withdraw from their own country—are trying to retake the pro-Russia rebel stronghold of Slovyansk in fighting that has killed at least three people. The dead include at least two soldiers killed when the insurgents shot down two Ukrainian military helicopters, the BBC reports. The defense ministry says the use of surface-to-air missiles shows that they are dealing with a "well-trained and armed professional subversive group committing acts of terrorism and sabotage in order to destabilize the region."

Ukraine's interior minister says security forces are fighting to "free hostages, force the militants to lay down their arms and vacate government buildings, and to restore the normal functioning of the city"; government forces have taken control of nine checkpoints surrounding the city, reports the Wall Street Journal. Moscow—which earlier warned that any move against pro-Russia militants would have "catastrophic consequences" for Ukraine—says the offensive has "effectively destroyed the last hope for the implementation of the Geneva agreements" that were intended to defuse the crisis, the AP reports.

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