SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) — The crisis in Ukraine has escalated today as the country's interim government launched its first major offensive against pro-Russia insurgents who have seized government buildings in at least 10 eastern cities.
Ukraine says many militants have been killed or wounded, while the insurgents shot down two Ukrainian helicopters.
And police say more than 30 people are dead in the city of Odessa after a building fire broke out during a clash between pro-Russia demonstrators and supporters of the central government in Kiev. The port city on the Black Sea is more than 300 miles from the turmoil in the east and until now had been mostly peaceful.
By nightfall, Ukrainian troops and armored personnel carriers had blocked all major roads into the eastern city of Slovyansk (SLAHV'-yansk), the center of the insurgency.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Ukrainian offensive has "effectively destroyed the last hope" for an agreement reached two weeks ago that aimed to defuse the crisis.
Ukraine accuses Russia of backing the insurgents. It fears Moscow is seeking a pretext to invade or annex more territory as it did with Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.
117-c-07-(Maria Danilova, AP correspondent)-"reacts to this"-AP correspondent Maria Danilova reports the next question is what will Russia do now that Ukraine has made its first major assault against the pro-Russian forces who have seized government buildings. (2 May 2014)
<<CUT *117 (05/02/14)££ 00:07 "reacts to this"
116-c-07-(Maria Danilova, AP correspondent)-"the past week"-AP correspondent Maria Danilova reports the Ukrainian Security Service says one of two Ukrainian helicopters shot down was struck by a surface-to-air missile, which it says undercuts Russia's claims that the area is under the control of civilians who took up arms. (2 May 2014)
<<CUT *116 (05/02/14)££ 00:07 "the past week"
APPHOTO XMB104: Ukrainian Army soldier smokes in front of an armoured vehicle at a burned out Pro Russia checkpoint while Pro Russia civilians block the road to Slavyansk , in the village of Andreevka, 10 km south of Slaviansk , Ukraine, Friday, May 2, 2014. Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops in areas near Ukraine's border. Kiev officials claim Russia is preparing to invade and that it is fomenting the unrest in the east, where insurgents have seized government buildings in about a dozen cities in towns. Moscow denies the allegations, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned Russia would respond to attacks on Russian citizens or interests in the east. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo) (2 May 2014)
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APPHOTO MOSB116: Ukrainian soldiers stand guard on a road leading to Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Friday, May 2, 2014. Ukraine launched what appeared to be its first major assault against pro-Russian forces who have seized government buildings in the country's east, with fighting breaking out Friday in a city that has become the focus of the insurgency. (AP Photo/Max Vetrov) (2 May 2014)
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