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Three Choppers Downed, Nine Checkpoints Taken
By Harold Hutchison

Ukrainian military forces have launched an offensive trying to regain control of cities in the eastern portion of the country, which have been taken over by pro-Russian militias. The fighting has resulted in numerous casualties, while fighting has broken out in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa.

According to reports in the media, the fighting in Odessa between those loyal to the Ukraine and pro-Russian militias left dozens dead. A fire in a union building is believed to have killed 31 people.

Most of the fighting in the Ukraine has centered around the city of Slovyansk, where the elected mayor has vanished after being forced out. The self-proclaimed acting mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, has claimed that three Ukrainian helicopters have been shot down, with at least one pilot killed. Ukrainian officials have admitted losing two choppers. A YouTube video shows the downing of one chopper – apparently a Mi-24 Hind.

The Ukrainian government has claimed to have taken nine checkpoints formerly manned by pro-Russian militias in the area of Slovyansk. Reports have indicated that the Ukrainians are using Mi-24 “Hind” helicopter gunships and armored personnel carriers to regain control from the pro-Russian militias.

In other developments, pro-Russian militias have held observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a CBS News crew captive. The Ukrainian government has also re-instated conscription, after initially planning to shift to an all-volunteer force.