US condemns new separatist attack in Ukraine’s Mariupol, points finger at Russia
Saturday, there were rocket attacks on public places in the Ukraine city of Mariupol that killed 30 people drew rebuke from Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders who says the strikes were executed by Russian-backed separatists.
“I join my European counterparts in condemning in the strongest terms today’s horrific assault by Russia-backed separatists on civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry said.
He also suggests more international economic sanctions on Russian if Moscow continues to arm and finance the separatist, or anti-government forces, in Ukraine, in violation of a peace deal between the countries reached last year.
“We call on Russia to end its support for separatists immediately, close the international border with Ukraine and withdraw all weapons, fighters and financial backing,” Kerry also said in a statement. “Otherwise, U.S. and international pressure on Russia and its proxies will only increase.”
On Saturday, rocket fire slammed into a market, two schools and homes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, about 25 kilometers outside of the ceasefire line.
Those rocket attacks came a day after the rebels rejected a peace deal and announced they were going on a multi-prong offensive against the government in Kiev to vastly increase their territory. The rebel stance has upended European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which the U.N. says has killed nearly 5,100 people since April.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said there were three separate strikes from Grad multiple-rocket launchers Saturday on Mariupol and surrounding areas.
“The area that came under attack was massive,” Mariupol mayor Yuriy Khotlubei said. “The shelling was carried out by militants. This is very clearly Russian aggression that has caused terrible losses for the residents of the eastern part of our city.”
A Ukrainian military checkpoint on a road out of the city toward rebel-held areas was also hit and one serviceman was killed, the Defense Ministry said.
Mariupol city council urged residents not to panic and to ignore rumors that Ukrainian armed forces were planning to withdraw.
“On the contrary, all units are on fully battle-ready. Security measures in the city have been strengthened,” the council said in a statement, adding that no armed separatist units had been seen moving toward the city.
Russia insists it does not support the rebels, but Western military officials say the sheer number of heavy weapons under rebel control belies that claim.