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Russia Expresses 'Outrage' At Shooting In East Ukraine

At Least Two Killed In Shooting Near Slovyansk, Eastern Ukraine
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Watch: The aftermath of the shoot-out near Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine. (WARNING: Graphic Content)

Following a deadly attack on a pro-Russian checkpoint in eastern Ukraine a pro-Russian local leader has announced a curfew and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to send Russian peacekeepers.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has already expressed "outrage" at the early morning attack on a checkpoint near the town of Slovyansk on April 20, saying it violated an Easter truce called by Ukrainian authorities and showed that the authorities in Kyiv do not wish to disarm "nationalists and extremists."

The attack happened at 2 a.m. local time when several vehicles approached a checkpoint and occupants of the vehicles reportedly opened fire on a pro-Russian group manning the roadblock.

Local pro-Russian separatist leader Vyacheslav Ponomarev, who called the curfew and Russian peacekeepers, said three pro-Russian men at the checkpoint and one attacker were killed.

Ponomarev said the curfew starts at midnight on April 21 and lasts until 6 a.m. local time.

Casualty figures vary with Ukrainian authorities claiming one person was killed and three injured in an exchange of fire.

Russia's Rossia 24 television channel said five people were killed; three people manning the checkpoint and two of the attackers.

Russia's Foreign Ministry blamed the attack on members of Ukraine's ultranationalist "Right Sector," a group Moscow has often blamed for unrest in Ukraine.

Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadskyy denied his group was involved.

"It is a blasphemous provocation from Russia -- blasphemous because it took place on a holy night for Christians, on Easter night," Skoropadskyy said.

He blamed the attack on "Russian special forces."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page that he is going to eastern Ukraine to see National Guard troops and special forces units.

Avakov did not say if his trip was connected to the shooting in Slovyansk or the security operation in eastern Ukraine, which authorities in Kyiv suspended for the Easter holidays but have vowed to continue after that pause.

LIVE BLOG: Ukraine In Crisis

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on April 20 that the Interior Ministry is calling upon former members of the ministry's commando units -- the Berkut -- to join with self-defense forces and resist foreign aggression.

Avakov dissolved the Berkut units after former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country at the end of February. Berkut members often clashed with anti-Yanukovych protesters in the weeks before the president's government fell.

The Interior Ministry's appeal said "yesterday Berkut and self-defense forces were on different sides of the barricades" but now "Mother Ukraine needs your help like never before."

Top diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union met in Geneva on April 17 and reached agreement on some basic steps toward a "de-escalation" of tensions in Ukraine.

Among those steps was the disarming and disbanding of illegal armed groups and a call for those who had seized government buildings to vacate those premises.

So far, there has been little evidence on the ground in Ukraine to suggest those conditions are being fulfilled.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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