Shelling adds to mounting civilian toll in Ukraine
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Shells smashed into a residential neighborhood of Donetsk on Tuesday as Ukrainian forces intensified their campaign to encircle the rebel stronghold. The shelling killed at least two people, blew gaping holes in an apartment block and raised fears that the city is on the verge of severe bloodshed.
Fighting also raged elsewhere in Ukraine’s troubled east, bringing the death toll to at least 24 civilians and 10 soldiers over the past day. And it prevented international investigators once again from visiting the site of the Malaysia Airlines jet shot down earlier this month.
The increased danger to civilians has brought sharp criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups. But each side blames the other for shelling residential areas.
The rebels insist the attacks are evidence of what they describe as the government’s indiscriminate oppression of its own people. But Ukraine insists that it has banned the use of artillery in residential areas and in turn accuses separatists of targeting civilians in an effort to discredit the army.
Donetsk until recently had seen little fighting other than a rebel attempt in May to seize the city’s airport. But Tuesday’s barrage, along with last week’s shelling of the city’s main railroad station, has brought the war painfully close to the city of nearly 1 million. Ukrainian forces have made advances against rebels in nearby towns.
Fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists also has been heavy around Luhansk, the second-largest city held by the rebels. Five people died when artillery fire hit a home for the elderly there on Monday, local authorities said.