On Brink of War, Ukraine Stops Flights
Both sides bury their dead as Germany makes dire pronouncement
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2014 7:33 AM CDT
Sergei Prokofiev international airport building is reflected in a puddle as a lone woman passes by, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, May 6, 2014.   (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
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(Newser) – The government in Kiev appears to have today blocked all international flights into, and many flights out of, the Ukraine's restive east in the wake of yesterday's violence and in anticipation of violence ahead of Friday's holiday commemorating World War II. At least 20 flights out of Kharkiv, the east's largest city, and Donetsk, the regional capital, have been canceled, the New York Times reports. Authorities also yesterday said they'd set up vehicle checkpoints around Kiev to guard against attacks.

Kiev now estimates that 30 pro-Russian militants were killed in yesterday's fighting outside Slovyansk, along with four Ukrainian soldiers. The separatists also shot down a military helicopter there—the fourth they've notched in recent days—although both its pilots survived, the Washington Post and Guardian report. The government has also sent special forces to Odessa. As the situation intensifies, Western leaders are making some dire assessments:

  • Germany's foreign minister warned that Ukraine is on the brink of outright war. "The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation," he told reporters, noting that the conflict had reached a pitch "that a short time ago we would not have considered possible." Germany is advising its citizens—and particularly its journalists—to evacuate from Ukraine's south and east, the AP reports.
  • The Council of Europe is meeting today in Vienna, though without much optimism. "You cannot expect miracles," Austria's foreign minister said, according to the BBC, but he said he expected the leaders to strongly back Ukraine's May 25 presidential election.
  • Indeed, Francois Hollande warned in a television interview that should that election not take place "there would be chaos and the risk of civil war."
  • At the moment, however, everything is quiet in the east and south, Reuters reports, as both sides bury their dead. "They shoot at us. Why? Because we don't want to live with fascists?" demanded one man at a Kramatorsk funeral for a woman allegedly killed by Ukrainian forces. At a pro-Ukrainian activist's funeral, meanwhile, one mourner lamented that "the government has failed to protect its own people."