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Downed Ukraine Helicopter Had General On Board; 14 Die In Attack

Black smoke rises from the spot where a Ukrainian army helicopter was shot down outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, on Thursday. Rebels shot the craft down amid heavy fighting around the eastern city.
Alexander Zemlianichenko

Militants in Ukraine shot down a military helicopter near the eastern city of Slovyansk Wednesday, killing 14 soldiers that included an Army general. The incident comes days after Ukraine stepped up its operations against pro-Russian rebels this week.

From Kiev, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports for our Newscast unit:

After suffering heavy losses in Dontesk earlier this week, pro-Russian insurgents struck back with anti-aircraft fire that brought down a Ukrainian helicopter. Acting President Oleksander Turchinov told parliament that 'terrorists using Russian anti-aircraft missiles' downed the helicopter, which he says was 'ferrying servicemen for a change of duty.' Turchinov says a general is among the dead.

Petro Poroshenko, waiting to be sworn in as Ukraine's new president, has sworn to finish what he calls the 'anti-terror operation' in the east as quickly as possible. He's vowing to beef up the military and conduct no negotiations with rebels unless they put down their arms."

The Kyiv Post identifies the killed officer as "General Major Serhiy Kulchytsky, who led the combat training department," in a report citing the National Guard. News sources in Ukraine say that both the aircraft — an Mi-8 helicopter — and the missile that shot it down were originally made in Russia.

After the helicopter went down, The Post says, the army concentrated fire from artillery and aircraft on the area where the attack on the helicopter had originated, and "a group of criminals involved in the shooting, was destroyed," according to an army statement.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian forces retook the international airport in Donetsk, in a two-day assault that relied on air strikes from fighters and helicopters.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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