Putin warns of 'consequences' after five pro-Russian militants are killed in Sloviansk
Vladimir Putin has warned there will be "consequences" if the Ukrainian army has been used against its own people after Ukraine's interior ministry said “up to five” pro-Russian militants had been killed in the separatist-controlled town of Sloviansk.
Forces are moving in on the occupied town after the interim president announced a new anti-terrorist operation earlier this week.
A Ukraine government ministry statement said that during the "anti-terrorist operation" its forces, supported by the army, removed three illegal checkpoints manned by armed groups in the northeastern part of the city.
"During the armed clash up to five terrorists were eliminated," it said. One person had been wounded on the side of government forces, it added.
The Russian President gave his warning during a televised meeting with regional media on Thursday, where he said: "If the regime in Kiev has begun using the army against the population inside the country, then this is undoubtedly a very serious crime.
"If these people have advanced to the so called 'acute phase' (of confrontation with protesters), this is not an acute phase, it is just a punitive operation and it will of course incur consequences for the people making these decisions, including (an effect) on our interstate relations."
Ukrainian troops with five light armoured vehicles took control of a checkpoint north of Sloviansk after pro-Russian separatists appeared to abandon the position.
Earlier, the Ukrainian government said it repelled an overnight raid on a base at Artemivsk, between Donetsk and Slaviansk, in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook the attacks were led by pro-Russian soldiers.
Mr Avakov also said police have cleared the city hall in Mariupol which had been occupied by pro-Russian protesters for more than a week, adding that no casualties have been reported.
Meanwhile, the funeral of pro-Ukrainian councillor Volodymyr Rybak, who was abducted and tortured in Donetsk, is taking place today.
Ukraine’s interim President Oleksander Turchinov called for an anti-terrorist operation to be re-launched on Tuesday, after he claimed that the body of Mr Rybak was found "brutally tortured" allegedly by pro-Russian militants.