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6 Jul, 2014 14:13

Ukraine army assaults Lugansk: Airstrikes on suburbs, shelling of residential areas

Ukraine army assaults Lugansk: Airstrikes on suburbs, shelling of residential areas

Kiev's artillery attacked the city of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, witnesses and militia of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Lugansk (LNR) said. Ukrainian forces also attacked the city’s suburbs from the air.

Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on Kiev's military op in eastern Ukraine

"Ukrainian aviation launched missile strikes at Aleksandrovka, the Lugansk suburb. Ukrainian airplanes are in the skies above Lugansk. A siren is on," the press service of the Donetsk People's Republic wrote on Twitter.

After 8 p.m. Moscow time, the confrontation between the self-defense and Ukrainian forces intensified in the suburbs of Lugansk, RIA Novosti reported.

The agency said that a heavy aircraft could be heard flying above Lugansk, after which a siren went off.

The consequences of an artillery attack on the town of Lugansk. (RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov)

In general, in the evening hours the situation within the city was calm. Earlier in the day Lugansk mayor addressed its citizens and asked them not to leave their homes.

One civilian was reportedly killed in the morning attacks, four more people injured.

Later in the day, following the air strikes, an air raid alert was heard in Lugansk, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The attack happened the same day Kiev said it would not bombard armed groups in Lugansk and Donetsk from the air. "The tactics of the Ukrainian Army, the National Guard and the Border Service are such that massive bombardment of residential areas is excluded," Andrey Lysenko, spokesman of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council said on Sunday.

The body of a local resident killed in the artillery attack on the town of Lugansk. (RIA Novosti / Valeriy Melnikov)

Air strikes and heavy artillery will target only convoys outside cities, he added.

"Several buildings are burning in the city, some people have been injured, there are a lot of ambulances in the streets,” militia representatives told Itar-Tass on Sunday, adding that locals rushed to bomb shelters. Witnesses say the battery factory was hit, which is close to a bus terminal.

Grad rocket launchers may have been used in the attack, the sources from the Lugansk People’s Republic said.

ФОТО Последствия бомбежки Луганска несколько минут назад pic.twitter.com/MEVFNrukIa

— Коробков-Землянский (@korobkov) July 6, 2014

Ukrainian forces confirmed the shelling of the areas near the Lugansk railway and bus stations on Sunday afternoon, but blamed it on the opposing self-defense forces.

"I presume the fire was really intense as it reached the city center from the outskirts. I heard at least five or six explosions," Anton Bukhalo, a journalist from Lugansk, told RT. He added that people were trying to leave the city.

A RIA-Novosti journalist also reported the sound of artillery and gunfire in Lugansk on Sunday.

Ukrainian forces hit a building in the city center and "huge black smoke" was seen in the area, an eyewitness from Lugansk told RT via Skype. He added that a warehouse was burning.

"I can often hear explosions or shooting. I can hear it every five to ten minutes," said the man, who is currently in the eastern part of Lugansk.

Donetsk militia confirm leaving stronghold cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk

Several explosions were reportedly heard in the Lugansk airport area, and the movement of military equipment was observed in the town of Schastie, near Lugansk.

The previous night mortar shelling took place near the Lugansk airport, but there are no further reports of casualties so far.

On Saturday, the health minister of the Lugansk People’s Republic said at least 80 people had been treated in Lugansk hospitals after a day of bombing and gunfire from Ukrainian forces. He said 56 of the injured were civilians.

On Sunday in Lugansk city center, people were collecting signatures for an appeal to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Locals want to ask the UN to stop Kiev's aggression towards civilians, they said.

The Ukrainian army will besiege the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk in the country's east, in an attempt to make the self-defense forces lay down arms, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council official told Ukrainian Inter TV channel on Sunday.

"The main strategic plan of the Ukrainian army is to besiege Lugansk and Donetsk," Mikhail Koval, deputy secretary of the Council said. Such measures will force the local "separatists" to lay down arms, he added.