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25 Aug, 2014 17:49

Russian humanitarian aid distribution begins in E. Ukraine

Russian humanitarian aid distribution begins in E. Ukraine

With heavy fighting underway in south-eastern Ukraine, the distribution of humanitarian aid from Russia has started in the city of Lugansk, which is besieged by the Kiev forces.

The first 12 points distributing food have already begun working. The minimum offering includes rice, buckwheat and sugar, three canned meats, a packet of tea and 10 liters of water, Novorossiya news agency reports.

Kindergartens, schools and other social facilities were the first to receive the aid.

The city said it was planning to open another 37 aid distribution points in the coming days.

The Russian aid convoy of 227 trucks arrived in the city on Friday, bringing almost 2,000 tons of relief supplies.

However, the humanitarian situation remains “critical” in Lugansk as the people are forced to survive without electricity, water and communications due to ongoing fighting between the Kiev troops and the local self-defense forces, Lugansk City Council said.

“Every day, firefights and shelling lead to new destruction of urban infrastructure and homes as well as combustions and fires,”
the local authorities said.

Earlier on Monday, Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has voiced plans for a second aid convoy to be sent to eastern Ukraine, urging foreign actors and agencies to participate in continuing efforts at relieving the “humanitarian crisis”.

The bread is being baked and is always on sale in Lugansk, but the City Council expressed concern that problems with water supply may result in spread of infectious diseases.

According to Kiev, the Ukrainian forces were able to entrench themselves in the northern part of Lugansk.

The army plans to use the area as foothold to begin its offensive on the rest of the city, Andrey Lysenko, Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman, said.

However, Lysenko stressed that “most of the Lugansk” remains under control of the self-defense forces of the Lugansk People’s Republic.

Kiev fires ballistic missile at Donetsk

The hostilities continued in Donetsk on Monday, with the mayor’s office speaking of explosions, which are heard “in all districts” of the besieged city.

“The epicenter of the fighting is now Kirovsky and Petrovsky districts [in the south-west of city],” the Donetsk authorities said.

Kiev has started using ballistic missiles against the self-defense forces in Donetsk, a RIA-Novosti news agency’s correspondent reported from the scene.

The Tochka-U missile, which is believed to be the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the country’s military, hit a miners’ village on the outskirts of the city on the eve of Ukrainian Independence Day on August 24, he stressed.

The rocket’s cluster exploded in the air, damaging several buildings in the Kirovsky district and gravely injuring three people, including a mother of three children, the self-defense forces said.

Tochka-U is a Soviet-era short-range tactical ballistic missile, which was introduced back in 1989.

The missile is designed to make precise strikes on enemy tactical targets and can also carry nuclear, biological or chemical warheads.

Previously, the Ukrainian authorities have denied accusations that they used Tochka-U missiles during their operations in Lugansk, Snezhnoe, Shakhters and several other south-eastern cities.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a Ukrainian National Guard position on the border checkpoint near Novoazovsk.(AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply )

On Sunday, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) has released a special report on civilian fatalities and damage following the shelling of a residential area in the north of Donetsk on August 23.

“At the scene, the SMM saw a five-floor apartment block with the ground in front of it littered with debris. Some sixty civilians, mainly elderly and in shock, were standing in the vicinity. Close to a footpath leading to one of the entrances, the SMM observed three bodies covered with blankets, judged by SMM to be two adults and a child, in close proximity to each other,” the report said.

“Local residents told the SMM that the three were a mother, father and their child. They said that another child, five years old and the fourth family member, died on the way to the hospital, as a result of head injuries,” it added.

The monitors also a nearby three-floor building, a garage and a kindergarten damaged by “what appeared to have been shelling.”

“The SMM saw a kindergarten, with the window panes of its second floor shattered and children’s toys scattered around,” the report said.

Anti-Kiev forces enter Elenovka village

The self-defense forces have entered the Elenovka village outside Donetsk, the press-service for the Defense Ministry of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk said.

The advancement came as a result of the “offensive reconnaissance” by the militias, the press-service stressed.

According to the self-defense forces, the Kiev troops were dislodged from two check points, with three Ukrainian soldiers taken prisoner.

The anti-Kiev rebels also seized two Rapira anti-tank guns, MT-LB armored personnel carrier with a mounted anti-aircraft twin-barreled auto-cannon and two transport vehicles, the ministry told Itar-Tass news agency.

However, the agency stressed that the info coming from the rebels isn’t confirmed by any other sources.

Ukrainian troops stand beside a tank with the inscription "victory", as they guard a checkpoint near the small eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiyvka, north of Donetsk.(AFP Photo / Oleksandr Ratushniak )

Earlier on the day, it was reported that the militias have enveloped a large grouping of Ukrainian military in Elenovka.

The self-defense forces said that around 2,000 Kiev troops, more than a hundred armored vehicles and 60 artillery pieces of various calibers were trapped.

According to People’s Republic of Donetsk staff, Kiev has lost 182 troops (107 killed and 75 injured) in fighting in Donetsk Region during the last 24 hours.

However, Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman, Andrey Lysenko, said that only 4 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 31 others injured.

Kiev’s military crackdown on in the south-east of the country started in April after the people in Donetsk and Lugansk Region refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities and demanded federalization of the country.

According to UN’s estimates, over 2,000 people have so far been killed and over 5,000 wounded in the fighting.