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In his words, the group of journalists left Sloviansk for another eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Policemen warned journalists at a checkpoint that “a sniper is keeping them in sight constantly.” “Two sole sniper shots were made a second later. A bullet has got in the road near the car wheel and another one whizzed past. We started making manoeuvres and damaged the bumper, but were not hurt,” Kots said, adding that policemen started shooting at the sniper that allowed shielding journalists and helped them to get out from the fire range.
Ukrainian special forces have launched a punitive operation in Sloviansk early on Friday morning. “A full sweep operation has started,” a representative of the city militia told ITAR-TASS by phone. “A landing force was dropped from a helicopter and engaged in fighting. Armoured vehicles entered the outskirts of the city,” he said, noting that two helicopter gunships Mil Mi-24 supported the army forces from the air.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has acknowledged later in the day that two helicopter gunships were downed and a military transport helicopter Mi-8 came under fire. At the present moment three people were reported killed, including two servicemen and a representative of police.
“Armored vehicles are securing the assault by landing troops,” the policeman 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.