Ukrainian security forces have launched an operation to clear pro-Russian separatists from the police headquarters in the eastern city of Slavyansk.
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,” he said on his Facebook page.
Avakov said security units from across the country had been brought in to launch the operation to re-assert Kyiv’s control in Slavyansk.
He appealed for people to leave the town centre, to stay in their apartments, away from the windows.
Meanwhile, militants blocking the road leading into the city from the north set fire to tyres and trees, hoping the smoke would hamper any operation by government forces.
By the side of one road leading into the city, a group of women were praying with a priest. Not far away, a group of about 12 armed men in combat fatigues, helmets and balaclavas and carrying automatic weapons appeared to be monitoring people on the road.
“We want to join Russia. We would be very grateful if Russia helps us,” said a gunman in the centre of Slaviansk who gave his name as Alexander, wearing camouflage fatigues and a black balaclava mask. “We will stand until victory. Honestly, it’s not scary for me to die for