News / Europe

Shelling in Eastern Ukraine Impacts Civilians

A damaged house in Donetsk (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
A damaged house in Donetsk (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)

Lena, 62, clutches one of the pigeons that survived Wednesday's attack on her inner-city district – a late-night barrage of rockets that killed 10 of her birds – as she condemns the damage to her one-story home.

"There aren't separatist fighters in the neighborhood," she said, adding that the only people who live in the grid of streets are retired coal miners whose hard work rebuilt the city after World War II.

Lena holding up one of her pigeons (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)Lena holding up one of her pigeons (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
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Lena holding up one of her pigeons (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)
Lena holding up one of her pigeons (Jamie Dettmer/VOA)

Lena's small house sustained serious damage but wasn’t the worst hit in the attack that saw 10 rockets impact the area. Roofs blew off several homes; others lost walls.

No one was killed, but Ivan, 72, and his wife were glad to shelter in their basement.

"We felt the vibration of the house being hit and heard pieces fall off, and when we got out we saw there was a fire," he said. 

Ivan doesn’t know why the district was attacked, but he and his wife, who both suffer from heart disease, say the Ukrainian army should fire on military targets, not private homes.

Ukrainian security spokesman Col. Andriy Lysenko earlier this week told VOA that government forces aren't the ones targeting residential areas. Separatists are doing it as part of a campaign to incriminate Ukrainian forces, he said, a charge denied by separatists, who have repeatedly blamed the attacks on Kyiv.

During this latest attack, separatists had fighters positioned in a military college in the neighborhood, which would appear to have been the primary target of the strike.

Evidence is mounting that both sides are less than discriminating about where they fire. Both Ukrainian and separatist forces use rockets of older vintage that are far from accurate, as Human Rights Watch recently pointed out. 

With government forces and separatists located in residential and commercial areas, civilian casualties are hardly surprising.

Thursday's rockets – fired from Ukrainian army positions, as far as VOA could judge – hit a commercial area in central Donetsk, wounding at least four civilians, according to drivers who took the injured to the hospital. Separatists claim the strikes on the city killed four civilians and hurt dozens.

The United Nations nearly doubled its estimate of the number of people killed in eastern Ukrainian conflict to 2,086 as of August 10. Half are likely civilians, officials told VOA. They include 200 who died in the downing of a Malaysian commercial jet last month, brought down by a missile Western governments accuse the insurgents of firing.

The U.N. blames most civilian deaths on the separatists. 

But Lena says she doesn’t care who was responsible. She just thinks the weapons are in the wrong hands and they don’t know what they are doing with them.

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