Ukraine and Donbass accuse each other of heavy shelling
Heavy fire and explosions have been reported on the contact line in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region, with Kiev’s forces and those loyal to the two breakaway self-declared republics accusing each other of aggression hours after the Kremlin warned fresh fighting could be on the cards.
Leaders from the unrecognised separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in the east of Ukraine reported on Thursday that government troops had attacked the outskirts of its territory. According to the DPR, units from Kiev fired at several towns and villages using 82 millimeter mortars, hand grenades, and rifles.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces subsequently reported that a settlement located near the Lugansk People’s Republic, the other breakaway territory in the region, had been attacked and photographs circulating online purport to show a kindergarten hit by a shell on the side controlled by government forces. Authorities stated that two civilians had been injured, missiles had hit the school, and half the area had lost electricity. The residents were evacuated.
Kiev has been locked in a civil war with the two breakaway territories since 2014, when separatists declared independent republics following the ousting of then-President Viktor Yanukovych during mass street protests. Ukrainian officials, along with Western countries, have accused Russia of supporting the rebels and fueling the conflict.
Moscow denies being a party to the war, and does not officially recognize the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic as independent states.
This week, however, the Russian parliament voted in favor of a motion addressed to President Vladimir Putin that called for Russia to announce its support for the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk, with 351 legislators backing the draft proposal and just 16 opposing. Putin has said that he favors a diplomatic solution and believes the Minsk agreements should be honored, but is yet to respond formally to the proposal.
On Wednesday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov claimed that it was quite likely that Ukraine would seek a military solution to the conflict. “The attention of our interlocutors is drawn to the fact that a military operation and an attempt to resolve problems with the use of force in the southeast are quite real,” he stated. “This probability is high and real.”