Russia blocks UN Security Council statement condemning shelling of Ukrainian city that killed 30

Russia blocked the UN Security Council statement because it condemned separatist 'self-defence forces' backed by Russia

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Russia has blocked a UN Security Council statement, backed by Western powers, condemning the shelling of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol that killed 30 civilians and injured more than 90 on Saturday.

The proposed statement called for “an immediate de-escalation of violence”, implementation of a September cease-fire and an “objective investigation” of Saturday’s rocket fire in the southeastern Ukrainian city.

“This attack marks a significant and disturbing escalation in the level of violence in eastern Ukraine,” the statement continued.

It also “condemned in the strongest terms” the start of a new offensive in Mariupol, announced by separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko.

Russia’s representatives at the UN said in a statement that they vetoed the statement because Britain had insisted on inserting condemnation of separatist “self-defence forces” backed by Russia.

It added that Western council members have never condemned the actions or statements of Ukraine’s government.

Ukraine accused pro-Russia rebels of being behind the rocket attacks in Mariupol, which killed 30, but separatists blamed government forces.

Mr Zakharchenko claimed that his forces had not started operations in Mariupol until after the shelling, but when the separatists were held responsible for the attacks by the government he ordered his men to “neutralise” Ukrainian troops.

Ukraine rushed to secure the strategically important port city by sending in troop reinforcements and military equipment and the president cut short a trip to Saudi Arabia to coordinate a response to the attacks.

The EU, Nato and the OSCE all condemned the attacks. Jens Stoltenberg, the general secretary of Nato, said: “The shelling of residential areas in the city of Mariupol from separatist-controlled territory has cost the lives of at least 20 civilians, and injured many more.

“For several months we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as a substantial increase in Russian heavy equipment such as tanks, artillery and advanced air defence systems.

“I strongly urge Russia to stop its military, political and financial support for the separatists, stop destabilising Ukraine and respect its international commitments,” he added.

Additional reporting by AP