(Reuters) – Ukrainian security forces launched an operation on Sunday to clear pro-Russian separatists from a police headquarters in the eastern city of Slaviansk, with Kiev reporting dead on both sides as it combats what it calls an act of aggression by Moscow.
Ukraine faces a rash of rebellions in the east which it says are inspired and directed by the Kremlin. But action to dislodge the armed militants risks tipping the stand-off into a new, dangerous phase as Moscow has warned it will protect the region’s Russian-speakers if they come under attack.
One Ukrainian state security officer was killed and five wounded on the government side in what interior minister Arsen Avakov called Sunday’s “anti-terrorist” operation.
“There were dead and wounded on both sides,” Avakov said on his Facebook page, adding that there had been an “unidentifiable number” of casualties among the separatists, who were being supported by about 1,000 people.
Kiev accuses Moscow of trying to deepen violence and chaos in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic it once ruled. The Kremlin, it says, wants to undermine the legitimacy of presidential elections on May 25 which aim to set the country back onto a normal path after months of turmoil.
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