Amid rising death tolls in eastern Ukraine, the head of a pro-Russian rebel group expressed disappointment Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin hadn't sent in more troops.
"The only possible help for us would be if the Russian forces came," said Dmitry Boitsov of the Russian Orthodox Army from Slaviansk, Ukraine — where fighting has been raging for two straight days.
"If he doesn't bring in forces, there will be people here who would want to destroy him, because he gave us false hope."
The Russian Orthodox Army is a newly formed militia group that is one of several armed rebel groups fighting in Ukraine's chaotic east. They are in dire need of help, Boitsov said.
"Our fighters are mine workers and young lads who do not know how to use arms," Boitsov told NBC News. It feels "like the whole world is against us.There are also many traitors amongst us."
GLEB GARANICH / Reuters
Ukrainian servicemen patrol at a checkpoint outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk June 4, 2014. Ukrainian government forces battled separatists with artillery and automatic weapons on Wednesday as fighting raged for a second straight day in and around Slaviansk, forcing many frightened residents to flee.
Slaviansk is considered a town with strategic value because of its location at the crossroads of eastern Ukraine's three major regions. It's about 55 miles north of Donetsk, the largest city in the east.
On Wednesday, Boitsov said 50 forces belonging to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic had been killed in the last 24 hours.
"Putin's ratings will fall if he is going to be like this towards us," Boitsov said. "Why does he betray us? He gave us hope to fight, and then gave us up. When he moved his troops, people lost hope."
The fighting in Slaviansk over the past two days has sent many frightened residents fleeing, as gunfire rings out and plumes of black smoke rise above the edge of town.
Separatists have controlled the town of about 130,000 since April.
— Albina Kovalyova and Elizabeth Chuck, with Reuters and The Associated Press
First published June 4 2014, 9:07 AM