Ukraine rebels announce new offensive as deadly shelling kills 30

January 24, 2015 | By | Reply More

Jan 24, – Pro-Russian rebels on Saturday launched an offensive on the key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, in an escalation the European Union foreign policy chief warned could lead to a further “grave deterioration” of EU-Russian relations.

hromedia Ukraine rebels announce new offensive as deadly shelling kills 30 eu news2Ukrainian authorities said at least 30 people were killed and more than 80 were wounded when rockets hit a market and residential buildings in Mariupol.

The attack came just hours after the rebel leader in the Donetsk region said there would be no further peace talks with Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko responded to the rocket fire with a vow to protect Ukrainian territory and a call for an emergency meeting of his security council.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg issued a statement saying the offensive “is in utter disregard of the cease-fire.” He said Russian troops have been supporting rebel operations with air defense systems, surface-to-air missiles and “advanced multiple rocket launcher systems.”

Both Stoltenberg and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Russia to stop providing the rebels with military and financial support. Mogherini called on Russia to use its influence to halt the offensive.

Mariupol sits on the Azov Sea between mainland Russia and the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

On Friday, Russian-backed Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, said his forces would attack government troops until reaching the borders of the Donetsk region. He said his fighters were advancing against Ukraine combat troops after seizing control of a long-contested airport Thursday.

Separatists currently control key territory in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions near the Russian border, after launching a rebellion nine months ago against Ukraine rule.

Zakharchenko was quoted in Russian media as saying he saw “no point” in further four-party peace talks. He told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the Minsk peace talks format agreed on last year was “a mistake” that “we will not make again.”

Separately, Interfax quoted rebel military official Eduard Basurin as saying more than 750 Ukrainian troops had been killed in recent days in the battle for the now-destroyed Donetsk airport.

He said more than 100 Ukraine tanks and other fighting vehicles had also been destroyed. The rebel claims have not been independently confirmed. U.N. officials, relying on reports from the conflict zone, said they had tallied 262 deaths over nine days.

In Moscow on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the latest escalation of violence. He accused Kyiv of launching an offensive using artillery and aircraft that he said had killed or wounded dozens of people, including women, children and the elderly.

Doctors Without Borders said Friday that the situation for civilians caught in the conflict zone was “dire.” The international medical charity said doctors close to the front line were “struggling to treat the wounded with dwindling supplies,” while heavy fighting was preventing medical teams from reaching the hardest-hit areas.

The United Nations human rights agency said Friday that the death toll from the conflict had passed 5,000. But spokesman Rupert Colville said the death toll could be far higher.

In Washington on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. remained deeply concerned by the increasing violence and bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, which she said had resulted from a surge in Russia-backed separatist attacks against the cease-fire line.  She said separatists had carried 1,000 attacks since early December.

Press journalist for HRO media – Ignacio Damigo reports.

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Category: European Crises

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