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Fighting rages in Donetsk as West warns Russia

© Photo: AFP / Alexander Khudoteply | A building in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk shows the scars of fighting between rebels and government forces

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-11

Heavy shelling pounded the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Sunday as the West warned Russia again that any attempt to send in troops for a “humanitarian” mission in the conflict-torn region would be “illegal” and “unacceptable”.

One person was killed and 10 injured in shelling that started early Sunday morning and continued into the day, Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky told The Associated Press.

Associated Press reporters heard 25 loud explosions in as many minutes around noon. More than 10 residential buildings, as well as a hospital and a shop, were heavily damaged by shelling overnight, and several buses caught in the crossfire were still burning Sunday morning.

According to rebel leaders, Donetsk is now surrounded by Ukrainian government forces as they look to tighten their grip on the separatist bastion in the country’s east.

At least 300,000 of the city’s 1 million residents have fled the escalating violence, which has claimed the lives of over 1,300 people since April, according to the UN.

“This is a real war! It’s impossible to live in this city, I’ve been sleeping in the basement for the past week,” said Inna Drobyshevskaya, a 48-year-old lawyer in Donetsk.

“We don’t want Novorossiya (New Russia) for this price, “she added, referring to a term used by rebels to describe the parts of eastern Ukraine seeking independence from the government in Kiev.

West warns Russia against Ukraine ‘intervention’

On Saturday, rebel leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko called for a ceasefire in Donetsk in order to allow in humanitarian aid, but his request was met warily by both the Ukrainian government in Kiev and the West.

Those leaders expressed concern that the move could be aimed at increasing international pressure on Ukraine to allow in a Russian aid mission. The West says that could be used as a pretext to bring Russian soldiers into Ukraine – and says 20,000 of them are already massed near the border.

Kiev has said it has already scuppered a Russian “humanitarian convoy with ‘peacekeepers’” moving towards the border, accompanied by troops and military hardware.

Following a round of telephone calls late Saturday, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a stern warning to Russia against any unilateral move into Ukrainian territory.

Obama and Merkel agreed that “Any Russian intervention in Ukraine... without the formal, express consent and authorisation of the government of Ukraine is unacceptable,” the White House said in a statement.

Such a move “violates international law, and will provoke additional consequences,” on top of the many economic sanctions already in place against Moscow, it added.

In a separate conversation, Obama and Cameron said that a Russian move into Ukraine would be “unjustified and illegal”.

No ceasefire unless rebels surrender

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko issued a statement late Saturday saying that Kiev was prepared to accept humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine. But he said the aid must come in without military assistance, pass through border checkpoints under Ukrainian control and be an international mission.

Poroshenko said he and Merkel had discussed German participation in such a mission.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military spokesman on Sunday dismissed the separatists’ call for a ceasefire, saying this could only take place once rebels had shown “white flags” and surrendered.

Replying to a journalist’s question, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said: “If there is this initiative, it should be carried out by practical means and not by words – by raising white flags and by putting down guns. We have not seen these practical steps yet.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-08-10

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