BYLBASIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — A shootout took place Sunday at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, which the insurgents and the Ukrainian police said left one person dead and others hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
The armed clash appeared to be the first since an international agreement was reached last week in Geneva to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russia activists have seized government buildings in at least 10 cities.
Ukraine and many in the West fear that such clashes could provide a pretext for Russia to seize more Ukrainian territory. Russia, which annexed the peninsula of Crimea last month, has tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine.
Yuri Zhadobin, who coordinates the pro-Russia unit manning the checkpoint in the village of Bylbasivka, told The Associated Press he was with about 20 men celebrating Easter when unknown men drove up in four vehicles and opened fire about 3 a.m.
“We began to shoot back from behind the barricades and we threw Molotov cocktails at them,” Zhadobin said. Two of the vehicles caught fire and the attackers fled in the other two, he said.
Some of his men were wounded and one later died in the hospital, he said.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry released a statement saying one person was killed and three wounded in the shootout, which took place near the city of Slovyansk. It said details of what happened were not yet clear.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the clash on the Right Sector, a nationalist Ukrainian group that has supported the interim government in Kiev, the capital, but is not part of it.
A spokesman for Right Sector, Artyom Skoropatskiy, denied any involvement in Sunday’s shootout, which he called a provocation staged by Russian special services.
Russian state media have been feeding fears among Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine that their lives are in danger because of the Right Sector.
Russian state television first reported five dead Sunday in the attack: three pro-Russia activists and two attackers. Rossiya television later revised its report to one dead and two wounded on the pro-Russia side and up to seven killed or wounded among the attackers.