The Ukrainian military offensive against the pro-Russian rebel held city of Slaviansk has largely stalled. Ukraine is in control of all the checkpoints surrounding Slaviansk, but has failed to take the center of the city.
Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, claiming that the offensive destroyed the Geneva accords, has said:
It looks as though at the same time Russia is employing efforts on the deescalating and settling of the conflict, the Kiev regime has moved on to firing from military aircraft at civilians in populated areas, the beginning of this retaliatory operation has practically destroyed the last hope on the Geneva Accords.
The express intention of the offensive was to recapture administrative buildings that the separatists have overrun as well as to free captured foreign military observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe.
The interim Ukrainian government and NATO have accused Russia of orchestrating the uprising. They also insist that at least some portion of the pro-Russian separatists are trained Russian soldiers. Russia routinely denies these claims.
Ukrainian soldiers began their assault on Slaviansk before dawn Friday morning.
But the Ukrainian offensive has made little headway over the course of the day amid allegations that pro-Russian forces are using civilians as human shields.
Two Ukrainian military helicopters were shot down during the offensive by surface-to-air missiles. The Ukrainian government has seized on this as proof that Russian forces were active in the city.
Two pilots were reportedly killed in the downed helicopters, and another was taken hostage.
Acting President Oleksander Turchinov, citing events in the east, has signed a decree reinstating compulsory military service for men between the ages of 18 and 25.
Meanwhile, Putin’s spokesman said that the assault was a “punitive operation” that had destroyed any hope of keeping alive the Geneva peace accord.
Russia has also said it is “extremely worried” about the fate of Russians living in Ukraine.
Russia has called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to address the rising violence inside Ukraine.