Ukraine Liveblog Day 62: Easter Truce Shattered By Gunfire

April 20, 2014
Local residents look at burnt cars near a checkpoint that was the scene of a gunfight overnight near the city of Slaviansk, April 20, 2014. Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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Below we will be making updates, which may be less frequent due to the holiday. Our full coverage will resume Monday. Be sure to check back often and hit refresh.

1707 GMT: “Yarosh’s business card” goes viral. The Russian government of course wasted no time blaming the attack at a pro-Russian checkpoint in Slaviansk on Right Sector, a far-right group that gained prominence during the Euromaidan protests two months ago. Pro-Kremlin media outlets such as LifeNews, which is close to the security services, alleged that at the scene of the incident U.S. dollars, guns and the business card of Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sector, were found. Ukrainians and Russians have mocked this fortuitous discovery as a naked Russian provocation, badly presented. #ВизиткаЯроша (“Yarosh’s business card”) apparently set Internet records as a hashtag in Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian news site Gordon reports.  Images like this have similarly gone viral:

1700 GMT: In a shootout in Slaviansk, somewhere between 1 and 5 people have been killed, but the details are extremely murky. Sky News reports:

A separatist interviewed by Reuters at the scene said three of the dead were with the pro-Russian militia.

The attack had happened at 2am local time, he said.

“We had three dead, four wounded,” a fighter called Vladimir told the news agency at the checkpoint, where there were two burned-out jeeps.

But Sky’s Katie Stallard, who has been to the scene, said there are inconsistencies in the separatists’ accounts and there is no coherent evidence to back up what they are saying.

Reuters TV footage of the scene showed two bodies, one of which appeared to have gunshot wounds to the head and face.

Kiev’s interior ministry said one person had been killed and three injured in an armed clash.

Reuters adds more details:

The separatists said gunmen from Ukraine’s Right Sector nationalist group had attacked them. The Right Sector denied any role, saying Russian special forces were behind the clash.

“The Easter truce has been violated,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “This provocation … testifies to the lack of will on the part of the Kiev authorities to rein in and disarm nationalists and extremists.”

Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky said it was a “blasphemous provocation from Russia: blasphemous because it took place on a holy night for Christians, on Easter night. This was clearly carried out by Russian special forces.”

Separatist militiamen near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk told Reuters a convoy of four vehicles had approached their checkpoint at around 2:00 a.m. (2200 GMT) and opened fire.

“We had three dead, four wounded,” one of the separatist fighters, called Vladimir, told Reuters at the checkpoint, where there were two burned-out jeeps.

Two of the attackers were reportedly killed.

Ultimately, the problem is this — none of the details are clear to anyone, except, apparently, the Russian government sitting in Moscow, which has blamed the attack on Kiev. By tomorrow, more details may shed light on what happened, but if the response from the Russian government is any indication, the details don’t matter. Moscow will use this as evidence that the truce has collapsed and the government in Kiev cannot be trusted.