Strike on busy market kills at least 27 in Russian-held Donetsk

AFP , Sunday 21 Jan 2024

Artillery shells struck a suburb of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine Sunday, killing at least 27 people, including many at a crowded market, Moscow-backed officials said.

Donetsk region
File photo: Aftermath of shelling in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. AFP

 

Both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of a sharp escalation in attacks on civilian areas over the past two months.

Shattered storefronts and broken glass could be seen in videos shared by Russian state media, along with what appeared to be bodies lying on the ground nearby.

Officials said the shelling hit a southwestern suburb of the city called Tekstilshchik, less than 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the frontline.

"Twenty-seven civilians were killed and another 25 people were injured of varying severity, among them two teenagers," said Denis Pushilin, head of the region's Russian-controlled administration.

He blamed Ukraine for the attack, calling it a "horrific" artillery strike on a civilian area.

Ukrainian shelling of a separate neighborhood in the city killed one other person, bringing the total number of dead across Donetsk to 28, Pushilin said.

Ukraine did not immediately comment, and AFP was not able to immediately verify the circumstances of the attack.

Kyiv said Russian shelling had killed at least two people in Ukrainian-controlled villages west of Donetsk on Sunday.

'People screamed'
 

The market strike was one of the deadliest in the city since Moscow launched full-scale hostilities against Ukraine in February 2022.

Donetsk resident Tatiana said she heard an incoming projectile overhead and hid under her market stall.

"I saw smoke, people screamed, a woman was crying," she told a local media outlet.

"Where is there anything military here? It's just a market," another resident named Tatiana told the same outlet.

"This is one of the strongest blows in recent times," she added.

Donetsk, occupied by Russia and its proxy forces since 2014, has been repeatedly targeted by what Moscow has called indiscriminate Ukrainian shelling.

Moscow called Sunday's attack a "barbaric terrorist attack" that showed the need for its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

"Security threats and acts of terrorism should not be committed from the territory of Ukraine," its foreign ministry said.

Authorities in the region have declared Monday a day of mourning, Pushilin said.

Gas terminal ablaze
 

News of the attack came as Russia reported another blaze on its energy infrastructure, this time at a gas terminal in the Baltic Sea port of Ust-Luga.

Kyiv earlier this week claimed responsibility for two attacks on oil depots in Russia, including one in the same Leningrad region where Ust-Luga is located.

Operator Novatek said there were no victims and that the fire was "currently localized" at the site, some 110 kilometers (70 miles) west of St Petersburg near the Estonian border.

The fire was caused by an "external factor", it said, without elaborating.

Ukraine, which has targeted Russian oil and gas infrastructure throughout the almost two-year conflict, did not immediately comment on the incident.

"No casualties as a result of a fire at Novatek's terminal in the port of Ust-Luga. Personnel were evacuated," Aleksandr Drozdenko, governor of Leningrad Oblast, said.

He shared a photo showing firefighters spraying water on a large fire at the terminal.

The RIA-Novosti news agency reported that a 100-cubic-metre container was ablaze.

The Ust-Luga complex processes natural gas condensate into naphtha, jet fuel, and ship fuel components, according to Novatek's website.

Short link: