Just days before the scheduled withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, the US Embassy in Kiev announced that six American servicemen had been killed in Ukraine. The deaths came in a helicopter crash. Just as the mass hysteria reached its peak, details of the tragedy were revealed:
A US-trained helicopter gunship accidentally went down in Ukraine while assisting military operations against Russian-backed rebels. All six US servicemen on board the helicopter were killed. The helicopter, according to the US, malfunctioned shortly after taking off from an airbase in Iraq. All the dead servicemen were from the Marine Corps and the Navy.
This is serious. The death of six US troops in Ukraine – in an area where the Russians have had a stranglehold on power for years – has to be the biggest crisis the world has seen since the Cold War. What are the conditions for peace between Russia and the Western World? What will the role of the United Nations Security Council be?
All these questions should be the subject of serious discussion at the United Nations. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the incident “a gross violation of international law” and “a gross violation of the Geneva Convention.” He condemned the “brutality” of the Russian forces’ approach to the downed helicopter and called on Moscow to end its support for the rebels. US Assistant Secretary of State John Burns added, “Such actions will not deter future brokers from using [the] international airport in Mariupol,” which is close to the crash site.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the six Americans were being evacuated to secure facilities. Later, however, she declined to say where they were being transferred to. No one is sure where they are being sent. US officials insist that none of the six were harmed in the crash. Nuland referred questions to the Russian Foreign Ministry, saying it could not confirm or deny the claim. The ministry has neither confirmed nor denied the incident.
The military has not acknowledged any loss of military personnel. A spokesperson told the Associated Press that one helicopter was damaged in a mid-air collision between a Ukrainian military transport plane and a Russian helicopter. The US soldiers on board the transport was not wounded. The crashed helicopter is one of about ten aircraft involved in a large military crash near the eastern Ukraine border. It’s unclear whether or not the accident is a military accident.
The International Business Times reports that a group of six US servicemen were killed in a “friendly fire” incident near the village of Vuhren, near the town of Snezhyn. The newspaper cited local residents as saying that the six servicemen had been hit by a surface-to-air missile. The soldiers were taken to a nearby hospital but later died. A Ukrainian military spokesman says preliminary investigations suggest that the soldiers may have been hit by an anti-aircraft missile.
This incident comes just a day after the news broke that six servicemen were killed in a mortar attack near Debaltseve, in the same region of Ukraine. The OSHA said that the deceased were civilians. No injuries were reported.
The OSHA called on both sides to “fulfill their obligations” to the deceased servicemen. A military spokesman in Kiev confirmed the deaths, saying that a group of military advisers were traveling in a Jeep when the vehicle was hit. He did not know how the missile came to land. He also could not confirm reports that another servicemen was critically injured. There are conflicting accounts of what happened.
US Central Command has dispatched its top spokesperson, Colonel Pat Pritchard, to the scene. He has also dispatched a US soldier to stay in the area to gather more information. A US military spokesman in Afghanistan said that all six servicemen were killed in an accident in eastern Ukraine. He did not release the names of the deceased.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that all six servicemen were killed in an explosion. The ministry said one of the six soldiers was wounded, and the body was not burned beyond recognition. It said the body was discovered in a town called Debaltsevka. There was no immediate word on the casualties of the other five servicemen.
The downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 was shot down over an area where pro-Ukrainian and Russian rebels are fighting each other. The airliner, which was carrying nearly 200 people, exploded just above a rebel-held area, killing all on board. US President Barack Obama and other leading politicians have called for an immediate peacekeeping mission in the country. The rebels deny the downing, and Russia has threatened to shoot down any planes using the Ukrainian air-defense system in an attempt to stop the international mission.