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Deadly shelling strikes school playground in Ukraine’s Donetsk

John Macdougall, AFP | Children and parents gather for the first day of class in Donetsk

At least four people were killed on Wednesday after shelling struck a school playground on the first day of class in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

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Ukraine's largest rebel-controlled city was shaken by violence as 10 people were killed, the highest daily death toll in the conflict since a tenous ceasefire deal was signed September 5.

A source in Donetsk city hall told AFP that the strike happened right after the school's 70 pupils lined up for an assembly to mark the first day of class -- held nationally on September 1 but pushed back by rebel authorities because of the conflict.

"The children were taken to the basement; they are still there," the source said.

The pro-Kiev regional government of Donetsk, which is now based in the government-controlled city of Mariupol, accused pro-Russian separatists of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" of shelling the school.

"The Donetsk People's Republic used rocket launchers to shoot at a school... the shell exploded five metres away from the building," the regional administration said in a statement.

Four adults were killed, it said.

Russian media and separatist websites showed footage of rebels launching attacks from positions in apartment buildings near Donetsk airport, which is still controlled by government troops. It lies about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the school.

Six more people died when another shell struck a public minibus in Donetsk, the regional authorities said, making Wednesday's casualty figures the highest civilian death toll in a single day since a ceasefire was struck.

Since the ceasefire deal there have been clashes at several flashpoints around the region, with both sides blaming the other for violating the agreement that commits both to withdrawing weapons and establishing a buffer zone.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

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