21 Die in Mariupol Attack in Ukraine 01/24 09:18
Indiscriminate rocket fire that hit a market, schools and homes Saturday in
Ukraine's strategically important coastal city of Mariupol killed at least 21
people, authorities said.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Indiscriminate rocket fire that hit a market, schools
and homes Saturday in Ukraine's strategically important coastal city of
Mariupol killed at least 21 people, authorities said.
Mariupol lies on the Azov Sea and is the major city between mainland Russia
and the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Heavy fighting in the region in the
autumn raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to
establish a land link between Russia and Crimea.
Rebel forces have positions within 10 kilometers (six miles) from Mariupol's
The Defense Ministry said in a statement that there were three separate
strikes from Grad multiple rocket launchers on Mariupol and surrounding areas.
"The area that came under attack was massive," Mariupol mayor Yuriy
Khotlubei said in a video statement. "The shelling was carried out by
militants. This is very clearly Russian aggression that has caused terrible
losses for the residents of the eastern part of our city."
The Donetsk region prosecutor's office said in a mid-afternoon statement
that 21 people had been killed.
Defense and police officials said rockets struck homes, a kindergarten, a
market and shops. There was no immediate report of how many people died in
A Ukrainian military checkpoint on a road leading out of the city toward
rebel-held areas was also hit and one serviceman was killed, the Defense
Rocket strikes on Mariupol come as separatists have declared their intention
to mount a multi-pronged offensive aimed at vastly increasing the territory
under their control. That would definitively upend recent European attempts to
mediate an end to the fighting.
Mariupol city council urged residents not to panic and to ignore rumors that
Ukrainian armed forces were planning to withdraw.
"On the contrary, all units are on fully battle-ready. Security measures in
the city have been strengthened," the council said in a statement.
No armed separatist units have been noted moving toward the city, the
The U.N. human rights agency on Friday raised its estimate of the conflict's
overall death toll to nearly 5,100 since April.
On Thursday, mortars rained down on the center of the separatist stronghold
of Donetsk, hitting a bus and killing several bystanders. Rebel officials said
13 were killed in that attack. Monitors from the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe cited city morgue officials as saying they have received
On Jan. 13, a bus parked near an army checkpoint north of Mariupol was hit
by a shell, resulting in the death of 13 people. Ukraine blamed the rocket
attack on separatists.
The OSCE's special monitoring mission (SMM) in east Ukraine on Saturday
expressed concern over the growing number of civilian casualties and called for
restraint from all sides.
"The SMM strongly condemns the continuation of the fighting in residential
areas. Using residential areas as firing positions attracts counter-firing to
these areas, further endangering the lives of civilians," the mission said in a
Clashes are taking place across the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk,
where separatist insurgencies emerged in April following Russia's annexation of
Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
Fighting has also been intensifying recently for the government-held town of
Debaltseve. Main roads to the town lie in separatist control and speculation is
mounting that Ukrainian forces stationed there could soon be fully encircled.
Russia insists that it does not support the rebels, but Western military
officials say the sheer number of heavy weapons under rebel control belies that
A peace deal signed in September in the Belarusian capital of Minsk
envisaged a cease-fire and a pullout of heavy weapons from a division line in
eastern Ukraine. It has been repeatedly violated by both sides, and heavy
artillery and rocket barrages have increased the civilian death toll in the
last few weeks.
Foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed Wednesday
to revive that division line, but fighting has continued unabated.