News

Civilians killed in eastern Ukraine amid fierce fighting

Civilians killed in eastern Ukraine amid fierce fighting

Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard on the suburbs of Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region on July 28, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

KIEV/DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) – Intense fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine killed at least 19 civilians, local officials said on Tuesday, as Kiev pressed an offensive to close in on the separatists.

Ukrainian forces have been pushing rebel units back towards their two main urban strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk and have sought to encircle them in several places, including in the wider area where a Malaysian airliner crashed on July 17.

Officials said 14 people, including five children, were killed in fighting on Monday evening in the town of Gorlovka/Horlivka, one of several spots that saw fierce battles between the rival forces in the last few days.

In the city of Luhansk, officials said five civilians were killed when shelling hit a retirement home.

“The enemy is throwing everything it has into the battle to complete encirclement of the DNR,” rebel commander Igor Strelkov told journalists in Donetsk on Monday evening, referring to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

“We were astonished by how much amour they threw into this battle,” said Strelkov, a Russian national, sporting a camouflage T-shirt and trousers.

A rebel source in Donetsk said reinforcements including military equipment and fighters had crossed the nearby border with Russia into Ukraine. Reuters was not able to confirm that independently.

Rebel leaders insist publicly that Moscow is not supplying them. Russia also denies Western accusations that it is supporting the rebellion with arms and troops.

Leaders of the United States and major European powers agreed in a teleconference on Monday to impose wider sanctions on Russia’s banking, technology and arms sectors over its alleged backing for the separatists.

The rebels say 7,400 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured since Kiev launched what it calls its “anti-terrorist” operation against separatists in the east in early May. Kiev puts the toll at fewer than 1,500.

A humanitarian corridor was due to open in Luhansk for six hours on Tuesday to allow residents to flee the fighting, but officials said they could not guarantee full safety.

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have already fled Ukraine’s tumultuous east.

A team of international experts including 38 Dutch and 12 Australian police will try to get to the plane crash site for a third day on Tuesday after fighting in the rebel-held area forced them to turn back on Sunday and Monday.

Fighting has impeded recovery of some of the remains from flight MH17 and undermined a probe that will be crucial as Kiev and the West trade recriminations with Moscow over the downing of the Boeing airliner. All 298 people on board were killed.

PHOTOS: Remembering the victims of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 attack

The international experts said if and when they get to the crash site, spread over a large area of fields, their first priority would be to recover any remaining body parts and then remove personal belongings from the area.

The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the first international body to get several experts to the site after the plane went down, was negotiating an access corridor overnight with both rebels and Ukrainian troops.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Gabriela Baczynska in Kiev, Aleksandar Vasovic in Donetsk; Editing by Paul Taylor)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: Jan. 30

Fresh
beatles

A look back on some of Hollywood's biggest headlines.

in Local Sports

California snaps 6-game skid, 76-67 over Washington State

Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin

Tyrone Wallace scored 21 of his 26 points in the first half

in Local

B’ham Hawk Fans to create giant lighted human 12

Lights on a downtown Seattle building form a giant figure "12" in honor of Seattle Seahawks' fans and the team's success Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Seattle. The Russell Investments Center, at 1301 Second Ave., coordinated with building tenants to strategically close window blinds to light the number twelve, honoring the team's "12th Man," on the west-facing side of the 42-story building on Wednesday and will do so again on Friday. The Seahawks play the New Orleans Saints Saturday in an NFC divisional playoff game.

The Seattle Seahawks play in the super bowl Sunday… but Whatcom county 12’s are already showing their support.

in Local Sports

WWU women win on the road, men fall at home

dom hunter 1-29

The WWU women were victorious on the road Thursday night, while the men couldn't finish a comeback at home

in Local

Dave Matthews raises 12th man flag on Seattle Space Needle

Musician Dave Matthews, right, poses for photos with his wife, Ashley Harper, second from right, after Matthews raised the Seattle Seahawks 12th Man flag, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on the roof of the Space Needle in Seattle. The Seahawks will face the New England Patriots in NFL football's Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.

Musician and Seahawks fan Dave Matthews raised the 12th man flag Thursday on top of the Seattle Space Needle