Deadly gunfight shakes Easter truce in Ukraine

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In what could be a big blow to Ukraine’s Easter truce, Russian state media says five people have been killed in a gun attack on a pro-Russian checkpoint.

Moscow blames Ukrainian nationalists for shooting at
the separatist activists near the eastern town of Slovyansk.

But Ukraine’s far-right group Right Sector denies any involvement, claiming Russian special forces staged the attack, which Kyiv says killed three people.

“People jumped out of Jeeps and started shooting at us,” said Vladimir, one of the activists at the checkpoint .“They threw stun grenades. Our people started running in various directions when somebody shouted ‘down’. A sniper was shooting those who tried to run into the village.”

Slovyansk’s town hall remains in the hands of pro-Russian rebels despite last week’s international accord aimed at averting a wider conflict.

Now, after these first deaths in armed clashes in eastern Ukraine since the Geneva deal, President Putin should send in peacekeepers, according to rebel leader and Slovyansk’s self-styled mayor Vyacheslav Ponomarev

“Until today, these were just clashes with minimal losses, but now no-one can expect any mercy from us,” he said.

Kyiv has said it won’t move against the separatists over Easter, and international mediators have headed to eastern Ukraine. But so far the pro-Russian militants have shown no signs of budging.

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