At least 11 people have died and a further 13 are injured after a bus was hit by heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine, near the contested city of Donetsk.
A passenger bus in eastern Ukraine has been hit by shelling, killing at least 11 people on board and injuring a further 13 passengers. The incident occurred near a Ukrainian military checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha – in the disputed Donetsk region, south of the major city.
Spokesman for the Interior Ministry in the Donetsk region, Vyacheslav Ambroskin, confirmed the incident and casualty figures in a post to his Facebook page. Denis Pushilin, Donetsk People’s Republic representative at the ongoing Minsk peace talks, said the attack may have been staged by Kiev.
Initially, 10 people were killed in the shelling. An eleventh victim, a woman, reportedly died in hospital later in the day, according to the Donetsk regional administration which cited health officials. The regional administration also reported that 18 people had been injured – 13 of which have been confirmed by external sources.
Ambroskin said the checkpoint was shelled from the direction of the town of Dokuchaevsk, which is under the control of local militia forces. The town of Volnovakha is under Kiev’s control.
The site of the shelling was “deep within Kiev-controlled territory” and the Donetsk militia could not have reached it, the spokesman for the DNR People’s Council, Andrey Purgin, told press in Donetsk.
“We don’t have the capability to shell this checkpoint either from the side of Telmanovo or Elenovka. The Ukrainian side has to figure out what has happened deep in its territory. It’s very far from the contact line,” Purgin went on to tell the local media.
Denis Pushilin also confirmed to press that the shelling that occurred near Volnovakha, at the Ukrainian army checkpoint, is “out of the operational range of the artillery of our militia.”
“I don’t rule out the possibility that [the attack] could be the Ukrainian army’s provocation, to attempt to put the blame for what has happened on local militia,” Pushilin said. He added that according to his data the closest DNR artillery crew was stationed some 50km from the site, which would make it technically impossible for the local militia to have shelled it.
The DNR Foreign Ministry has called for an independent investigation into the incident in a statement published on its website.
The incident has caused potentially serious damage to ongoing peace talks, with many now viewing the shelling as responsible for ending any and all possibility for a ceasefire, however weak and unenforced it may have been.