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Ukraine

Russia, Ukraine officials blame each other for deadly shootout in eastern Ukraine

Ukraine and Russian officials have denied responsibility for a deadly assault on a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine. The mayor of the city where the attack occurred has reportedly called on Moscow for help.

Attack threatens Easter truce

A dispute over the who was behind a deadly shootout in eastern Ukraine reignited tensions between Moscow and Kyiv on Sunday, coinciding with an "Easter truce." Overnight, unidentified gunmen killed at least one person and injured three more at a checkpoint in the eastern Ukraine city of Slovyansk, according to the Ukrainian interior ministry.

Russia's foreign ministry blamed Ukraine's ultra-right wing faction, the Right Sector, saying that it was "outraged" at the attack on "innocent civilians." However, Right Sector spokesperson Artyom Skoropatskiy denied involvement and sided with Kyiv's assertions that Russian provocateurs had staged the attack.

The incident prompted an appeal from Slovyansk's self-declared mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, for Moscow to protect the region.

"They are killing our brothers," Ponomaryov told reporters on Sunday, who also said he had asked Moscow to send in peacekeepers "to defend the population against the fascists."

According to AFP news agency, the Slovyansk mayor had imposed a curfew from midnight until 6:00 a.m. (2100 UTC to 0300 UTC) on the city, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Ponomaryov also confirmed that he had been in contact with mediators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), but declined to provide details about what they had discussed.

On Saturday, the interim government in Ukraine announced it would halt its mission to recapture occupied buildings in eastern Ukraine from Russian separatists. The decision had been made in observance of the Easter holidays, as well as the Geneva agreement.

Thus far, separatists have rejected the terms of the Geneva accord, which was struck by Russian, US, European Union and Ukrainian diplomats on Thursday. They have instead insisted they would continue occupying government buildings until the interim government in Kyiv resigns.

kms/mz (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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