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Explosion in Ukraine as war of words continues between Russia and US

A Ukrainian military helicopter has exploded on the ground near the rebel-held eastern city of Slovyansk. On Friday, a war of words heated up between officials from Ukraine, Germany, the United States and Russia.

Officials reported no casualties after an Mi-8 helicopter was hit while on the ground by a rocket-propelled grenade Friday. The attack followed less than a day after a separate incident, in which seven people were injured overnight at a checkpoint set up in support of the Ukrainian government near the Black Sea port of Odessa.

The explosions near

separatist-held territory in east Ukraine

followed

heated diplomatic tensions

. On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of distorting

an agreement to defuse tensions

in Ukraine's separatist east.

"Russia will steadfastly assist in de-escalating the conflict on the basis of the Geneva compromise, but I want to stress there cannot be any one-sided demands that are being presented to us," Lavrov said.

'World War III'

After talks in Geneva last week, interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had promised constitutional reform to give more autonomy to regions and to protect the status of the Russian language. Yatsenyuk has since accused Russia of trying to occupy Ukraine "militarily and politically."

"Attempts at military conflict in Ukraine will lead to a military conflict in Europe," Yatsenyuk told Ukraine's interim Cabinet on Friday in remarks broadcast live. "The world has not yet forgotten World War II, but Russia already wants to start World War III."

On Friday, US President Barack Obama said that any attempts by Russia to invade Ukraine would lead to further sanctions.

"We'll continue to keep some arrows in our quiver in the event we see further deterioration," Obama said during a news conference in South Korea, where he held meetings with President Park Geun-hye.

Merkel and Putin

On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the phone and "expressed her great concern over the tense situation in eastern Ukraine and said she expects Russia's government to express its commitment to the Geneva agreement and to cooperate in its implementation," her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters.

According to the Kremlin, Merkel and Putin were able to agree to further discussions on energy issues.

"The leaders of both countries stressed it was important to conduct as soon as possible talks on issues relating to the security of supplies and transit of Russian gas involving representatives of Russia, the European Union and Ukraine," the Kremlin announced in a statement.

The International Criminal Court announced Friday that it had opened a preliminary probe into crimes committed during and after the fall of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in February.

mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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