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Slavyansk militia says shot down one more Ukrainian Air Force helicopter

The Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter was damaged by bullet fire and performed an emergency landing

SLAVYANSK, June 06 /ITAR-TASS/. Representatives of the people’s militia of the city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine’s embattled Donetsk Region have shot down a helicopter of the Ukrainian Air Force, the Novorossiya news agency quoted the militia command as saying.

The Mil Mi-8 transport helicopter was damaged by bullet fire and performed an emergency landing on Thursday.

Slavyansk people’s mayor Vyacheslav Ponomaryov told an Itar-Tass correspondent that at least two helicopters were shot during the battle.

“It happened to the east of Slavyansk,” he specified, adding that according to preliminary data, three tanks were also damaged.

Fierce clashes between Ukrainian military and militia near Slavyansk have been ongoing since June 3. Ukraine’s armed forces use attack aviation - fighters and helicopters.

According to Ponomaryov, during fighting on June 3, militiamen shot down two aircraft, including a Su-25 (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) attack aircraft, a Ukrainian Air Force helicopter, and damaged four armored vehicles. Another helicopter was shot down on June 4 after a regular air strike on the settlement of Semyonovka near Slavyansk.

Militias were formed in Ukraine’s southeastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions because the territories refused to recognize the legitimacy of central Ukrainian authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in February.

The decision by residents of the Southeast to defend their rights was prompted by the Crimean Peninsula’s referendum and subsequent secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia in mid-March.

Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against federalization supporters in Ukraine’s Southeast. The operation, which involves armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation, has already killed dozens of people, including civilians.

Russia has repeatedly called on Kiev to stop what Ukraine calls an antiterrorism operation and start dialogue with the Southeast.

Referendums were held in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.

Billionaire businessman and politician Pyotr Poroshenko won the May 25 early presidential elections in Ukraine, which were set by the coup-imposed Kiev authorities. He is to be sworn in on June 7. Poroshenko earlier told media he had funded anti-government protests that led to February's coup.