Kiev's retaliatory operation in Ukraine's Slavyansk destroys last hope for Geneva accords - Kremlin spokesman
"It looks as though at the same time Russia is employing efforts on the deescalating and settling of the conflict, the Kiev regime has moved on to firing from military aircraft at civilians in populated areas, the beginning of this retaliatory operation has practically destroyed the last hope on the Geneva Accords," Peskov said.
"During a recent visit to Minsk, Putin called such a possible operation criminal," Peskov said. "Regrettably, the ongoing events have fully confirmed this assessment," the press secretary said.
The Russian president's special envoy Vladimir Lukin arrived in southeastern Ukraine on Thursday on Putin's instructions in order to hold negotiations on the release of the foreign military observers detained there earlier, Peskov said.
"We have been unable to get in touch with Lukin since the "punitive operation" began," Peskov said. "Generally speaking, as Russia makes efforts to de-escalate and settle the conflict, the Kiev regime ordered combat aircraft to fire at civilian towns and villages, launching a "punitive operation" and effectively destroying all hope for the viability of the [April 17] Geneva agreements," the presidential press secretary said.
"We are extremely concerned by the fact that both presidential special envoy Lukin, with whom we are still unable to establish contact, and Russian journalists and media representatives from other countries remain in the area of the "punitive operation". We will certainly demand measures to ensure their security," he said.
Ukrainian army Helicopters stroke rocket attacks on Slavyansk, eyewitnesses report. One of the residents of the city told RIA Novosti that they had witnessed missile strikes by helicopter.
"The blows were delivered on an open area in the districts of roadblocks," the Agency's interlocutor noted.
The city of Slavyansk in the East of Ukraine, which on Friday was stormed by the Kiev security forces with the use of aviation, is blocked with checkpoints and barricades, a correspondent of RIA Novosti reports. Barricades of the Donetsk activists of self-defense are built at the entrance to the city from the outside, and from the inside there are roadblocks put up by armed people, who, according to the Donetsk activists, are members of the Right Sector.
The city is closed for free entrance. According to the RIA Novosti correspondent, at the entrance to the Slavyansk, cars are checked at least at five roadblocks, where armed people ask visitors about the purpose of their visit. Not all journalists managed to pass the checkpoints. For instance, correspondents from the USA and Canada were denied entrance to the city.
The Donetsk activists have blocked the entrances to Slavyansk with heavy vehicles, including petrol trucks. They are armed with hunting rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers.
Acting Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has claimed that 10 federalist block posts in the country's eastern city of Slavyansk have been taken by law enforcers and activists have been taken prisoner during a large special operation on Friday. The active phase of the special operation against federalists in Slavyansk began in the early morning. "Ten block posts have been taken, prisoners have been taken," Avakov said on his Facebook page.
Avakov also said one pilot was killed and several fighters wounded in clashes between Kiev controlled security forces and federalization supporters in the center of Slavyansk.
A representative of the local administration told RIA Novosti that one person was killed and one injured.
"The Ukrainian army is landing troops from helicopters, intends to fully secure the area, the battle has already moved into the center of the city," a spokesman told RIA Novosti, adding that heavy armored vehicles are on the outskirts of the city.
Meanwhile, several self-defense activists in Slavyansk reported that three helicopters were shot down over the city.
The activists claim to have caught on video one of those crashes, and said the video will be soon released.
A warning siren informed Slavyansk residents Friday morning about the beginning of the active phase of the special operation by the Kiev authorities, soon after the shooting started.
Slavyansk self-defense forces reported attacks on the checkpoints and the train station.
Federalization supporters in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Gorlovka, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk have refused to recognize the legitimacy of the coup-imposed Ukrainian government.
The Ukrainian government earlier resumed a special operation to crack down on the unrest, despite the agreement on deescalation of the crisis signed in Geneva two weeks ago.
Moscow has denounced Kiev's actions.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry on Friday said that during the active phase of a special operation in the country's eastern city of Slavyansk that two military Mi-24 helicopters were downed and on Mi-8 helicopter was damaged, leaving two military personnel dead and several others injured.
"Outside of Slavyansk in the Donetsk Region two Ukrainian military Mi-24 helicopters, which were carrying out aerial patrols, were downed. According to preliminary information, the military machines were taken down by unidentified individuals using mobile Zenit rocket systems. As a result, two military personnel were killed and several others have been injured," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
A full-scale sweep operation is underway in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, armored vehicles are on the outskirts of the city, a spokesman for the Slavyansk militia said Friday. Ukrainian Air Force combat helicopters are in the sky above the east Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, the city is fully blocked, fighting is underway, a representative of the self-defense forces told Itar-Tass by phone. He said that he has no confirmed information on those injured or killed.
Earlier, the representative said the Ukrainian authorities were conducting a full-scale sweep operation in Slavyansk, using aircraft and landing troops against civilians. The operation "started at 5 a.m., as they [Kiev leaders] pledged".
"Armored vehicles are securing the assault by landing troops," the militiaman said. He said he is at a checkpoint in the city center.
Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking southeastern regions in March after Crimea's incorporation by Russia. Demonstrators, who are demanding referendums on the country’s federalization, seized some government buildings.
The Kiev authorities have been conducting an antiterrorism operation in eastern Ukraine. Russia, which does not recognize the de facto Ukrainian leaders brought to power by the coup, has condemned the operation, apparently aimed to crack down on Ukrainian nationals supporting federalization.
Crimea's urge to reunify with Russia was caused by the republic's refusal to accept the new Kiev authorities. In a March 16 referendum, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine and accede to Russia. The reunification deal with Moscow was signed March 18.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when it was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev.