Ukrainian Helicopter Shot Down a Day After Ceasefire, Nine Dead

The Ukrainian military claims that a helicopter carrying nine of its men was shot down by pro-Russian separatists, despite a ceasefire agreement reached last Friday. All nine men died in the attack and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, reports the BBC, is considering ending the ceasefire ahead of its Friday deadline for "constant violation by rebels who are controlled from abroad."

Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the newly-christened Donetsk People's Republic, has indicated that he is also considering breaking the ceasefire, and questions whether there ever should have been one.

"I say officially now that there has been no ceasefire and, judging by everything, there will not be any," he reportedly announced on Russian television. "In general, all that is left to us is to continue fighting."

Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that ceasefire should continue. From the Associated Press' report:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, urged Ukraine's government to extend the cease-fire and launch talks with the rebels that would give people in the mostly Russian-speaking east a sense of security and protect their rights.

"We hope that the cease-fire will be extended and it will be used for substantive talks," Putin said on a trip to Vienna.

Speaking shortly after the helicopter was shot down, Putin blamed Ukrainian forces for breaking the cease-fire on Tuesday by launching an airborne raid in Slovyansk, the flashpoint in the two-month insurgency.

Putin did not mention the downing of the helicopter, which marked a sharp escalation of tensions amid a cease-fire that has mostly held since early Monday. The rebels pledged to respect it following talks later in the day.

According to CNN, Putin today asked Russian Parliament to cancel a March 1 resolution, passed weeks before Russia claimed Crimea, "that authorizes Russia to use force in Ukraine."

[Image via AP]