Ten killed in eastern Ukraine as Russian separatists bombard key city of Mariupol

Capturing Mariupol would allow the Russian separatists to link up the territory they hold with Russia

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The Independent Online

Ten people have been killed after pro-Russian separatists bombarded the east Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the head of the Donetsk regional police has said.

The bombardment, variously reported as shelling or rocket fire, appears to be part of a push by separatist forces to take more territory in the east of the country.

"As a result of shelling by rebels of a residential sector of Mariupol ... ten people have been killed," police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a post on Facebook.

According to the Ukranian government’s press department, rebels struck the area with Soviet-designed Grad-class missiles on Saturday morning, destroying residential buildings.

Mariupol, a city of around half a million people, is the main settlement between mainland Russia and the Crimean peninsula. The capture of the city and its hinterland would form a land-bridge between Russia and  the Crimean peninsula, which is under control of separatist rebels.

The rebels are reported to have positions around 10 kilometers from Mariupol's eastern outskirts, which may be where the bombardment originates from.

The bodies of the victims of a shelling attack on a bus near the Ukraine town of Volnovakha on Tuesday are laid out by the side of the Donetsk-Mariupol road

Earlier this week the Ukrainian government accused separatists of taking advantage of a ceasefire deal signed last September to seize more territory in the east of the country.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin's said the rebels had seized more than 500 square km beyond the lines agreed in the ceasefire.

More than 200 Ukranian soldiers and hundreds of civilians are said by the country’s government to have been killed since the ceasefire came into effect late last year.