The crisis in Ukraine became dramatically worse with 42 people killed and 125 injured in a fire and clashes between pro- and anti-Russian groups in Odessa, leading the Ukrainian government to say the unrest has become “a war.”
On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the West and the interim government in Kiev for the violence in Odessa, including the horrific trade union building fire, NBC News reports.
The trade union in Odessa was set on fire Friday, causing some 40 people to die from choking on smoke, burning or jumping from windows.
“Kiev and its Western sponsors are practically provoking the bloodshed and bear direct responsibility for it,” Putin’s spokesman said to reporters, according to state news agency RIA Novosti. “Those who recognize this junta as legal power becomes an accomplice of this crime.”
Petro Lutsiuk, the local police chief in Odessa, said that 130 people have been detained after the clashes. Charges range from premeditated murder to participating in riots, according to NBC.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government resumed a military offensive against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country on Saturday.
This comes immediately after the observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were released by their pro-Russian captors.
Many insurgents were killed or wounded in the Ukrainian military’s eastern offensive, according to acting president Oleksandr Turchynov.
Two Ukrainian helicopters were reportedly shot down by insurgents near Slovyansk, a rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine.
Two crew members and seven others died, including three separatist militants, two soldiers and two civilians, according to Fox News.
The Ukrainian military has reportedly blocked off all major roads into Slovyansk, as they did last month.
The Kremlin said that the Ukrainian offensive “destroyed” the agreement to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine that was signed two weeks ago, according to Haaretz.
Fighting has also broken out in the astern town of Kramatorsk.
“There is gunfire and clashes around Kramatorsk … What we are facing in the Donetsk region and in the eastern regions is not just some kind of short-lived uprising, it is in fact a war,” Vasyl Krutov, the head of the Ukrainian anti-terrorist center said at a news conference, according to The Independent.
Later, Krutov stated that Ukrainian forces retook the security service headquarters from pro-Russian activists in Kramatorsk.
Local Ukrainian television aired pictures of armored personnel carriers moving through Kramatorsk, according to The Independent.
Kramatorsk is just 10 miles away from Slovyansk.
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