Ukraine crisis: At least 30 civilians killed in latest violence as government battles to control eastern regions

Deaths follow President Poroshenko's announcement that Kiev’s 'anti-terror operation' was entering a new phase aimed at 'liberating' Donetsk and Luhansk from pro-Russian rebels

donetsk

Yuri rips broken glass away from windows and then pounds his fists against the brick wall. He crouches to cradle the lifeless body of Ira, his ex-wife, to his cheek. Her blood is smeared across his face. Next to her, Ira’s teenage sister lies face down with her foot poking from beneath a blanket. In the courtyard their parents lie next to a children’s swing set. “I will slit these Ukrainian bastards’ throats,” he said.

The family from Petrovskiy, 10 miles from Donetsk city centre, are among the latest civilian victims of the indiscriminate use of artillery in eastern Ukraine as government forces battle Russian-backed rebels.

The increase in violence follows last week’s announcement by President Petro Poroshenko that Kiev’s “anti-terror operation” was entering a new phase aimed at “liberating” the eastern region’s two largest cities – Donetsk and Luhansk – from the pro-Russian rebels.

Since then fierce fighting has claimed the lives of at least a further 30 civilians.

Use of inaccurate artillery by both sides, including mortars, tanks and rockets, has forced tens of thousands to flee the region as misfired explosives wreak havoc in civilian areas caught in the crossfire.

The three-month siege of Slovyansk, the rebels’ headquarters, was broken by Ukrainian forces this month. Hundreds of civilians were killed and the city’s infrastructure was devastated by shelling before it was retaken.

Rescue workers and local residents remove debris of an apartment building hit by missile during an air strike in the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, 100 km east of Donetsk (Getty) Rescue workers and local residents remove debris of an apartment building hit by missile during an air strike in the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne, 100 km east of Donetsk (Getty)
Luhansk, a city of 425,000 people, resembles a ghost town after 2pm. Most shops in the city have closed. Those that remain open pull down their shutters as people disappear from the streets before afternoon shelling starts. A two-mile stretch of offices and apartment blocks from the centre toward the airport has been turned into a no-go zone of mortar fire as Ukrainian forces hurl shells towards a nearby rebel base and the sound of outgoing fire echoes back in return.

Some suburbs of the city have been near abandoned as the two sides use once-tranquil villages as a battlefield. In Stanitsa Luhanskaya, the locals who remain said they are confused about who is attacking them and just want peace.

On Tuesday, another air strike on the small town of Snizhne, 12 miles from the Russian border, killed 11 people after six bombs were dropped on apartment blocks and offices in the central area of the town during the early hours of the morning.

Standing outside her destroyed home, a retired nurse stared bewildered as rescue workers tried to stabilise the building and search for trapped people. “I have lost everything I worked my whole life for in a second,” she sobbed.

The family of Yuri’s ex-wife was killed on Saturday afternoon as a barrage of heavy artillery blasted through their house. In the hours after the assault traumatised villagers emerged from their houses to survey the mess of rubble. “We only just managed to dive into the basement in time,” Marina, the neighbour of the dead family told The Independent, pointing to a large crater in her front garden.

At least eight civilians were killed in the assault and several buildings, including apartment blocks, restaurants and an orphanage, were destroyed.

Both sides blame each other for the attacks but international organisations called for an immediate end to the use of explosives in populated areas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food