Ukraine Military Helicopter Shot Down In Slovyansk; 14 Killed

Image: Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk
Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, on May 29, 2014. Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

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Pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter Thursday, killing all 14 people on board including an army general, acting President Oleksander Turchinov told parliament in Kiev.

The separatists used a portable air defense missile to bring down the chopper amid heavy fighting around the eastern city of Slovyansk, Ukraine’s outgoing interim leader said.

"I have just received information that terrorists using Russian anti-aircraft missiles shot down our helicopter,” he told lawmakers. “It had been ferrying servicemen for a change of duty.”

The crash itself was witnessed by the Associated Press.

Slovyansk has become the epicenter of fighting between pro-Russia insurgents and government forces in recent weeks. Located 100 miles from the Russian border, it has seen constant clashes and its residential areas have regularly come under mortar shelling from government forces, causing civilian casualties and prompting some residents to flee.

Also Thursday, an insurgent leader confirmed that his fighters were holding four missing observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and promised that they would be released shortly.

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed "people's mayor" of Slovyansk, told the AP that the monitors — who are from Turkey, Switzerland, Estonia and Denmark — were safe.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Alastair Jamieson