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38 Dead in Skirmishs, Fire in Occupied Building as Violence Escalates in Ukraine

The Ukrainian government claims that at least 38 have died in clashes when a pro-Russian demonstration took over and occupied the trade union building in the southwestern port city of Odessa. Clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian protesters turned violent and eventually resulted in a fire engulfing that building, forcing the occupying demonstrators onto window ledges and even to jump to the street below.

The city government released a statement on the violence but did not provide details regarding how the fire started. The Kyiv Post editor Christopher Miller reported that 30 protesters died as a result of smoke inhalation while at least 8 died after suffering injuries sustained while jumping from the burning building.

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Moscow-based reporter Howard Amos was on the scene and tweeted these photos of the chaos:

“Until now, Odessa, a key port on Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast, had largely been free of the unrest that is gripping eastern parts of Ukraine in recent weeks,” the AP reported on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, a Ukrainian ant-terror operation took back control of the eastern city of Sloviansk. “Two military helicopters were shot down and another was forced to land,” the Kyiv Post revealed. “Two pilots were killed when pro-Kremlin rebels fired surface-to-air missiles at the helicopters. Another pilot was wounded and taken hostage in Sloviansk.”

UPDATE May 2, 2014 3:48:00 p.m.: While the Ukrainian government did not state the official cause of the fire, photographic evidence via Reuters suggests protesters hurling Molotov cocktails into the building are responsible. Reuters reports that the death toll from this incident has climbed to 40:

h/t Interpreter Mag / AP

[Image via Pool New / Reuters]

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An experienced broadcaster and columnist, Noah Rothman has been providing political opinion and analysis to a variety of media outlets since 2010. His work has appeared in a number of political opinion journals, and he has shared his insights with television and radio personalities across the country.