A pro-Russian armed man guards a checkpoint near the town of Slaviansk, east Ukraine
May 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
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Gunfire and blasts were heard early Friday around an eastern city in Ukraine that has become the focus of an armed pro-Russian insurgency, whose leaders claimed that government troops had assayed a military assault in an attempt to retake control.Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the insurgency-appointed mayor of Slovyansk, said self-defense forces had shot down two helicopters and taken one pilot hostage. He said no Ukrainian troops could be seen in the city. The official spokesman for the military wing of the pro-Russian forces, who would give only his first name, Vladislav, said fighting had broken out at several points around the city. He said government armored vehicles were seen on roads leading into Slovyansk and claimed that Ukrainian troops had made incursions into the city itself. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Ukraine should withdraw its military from the eastern and southern regions of the country.
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