Moscow says 20 dead in Donetsk after Ukraine attack

A local resident walking along a damaged street in the town of Volnovakha, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on March 12, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia said Monday (March 14) that an attack by Kyiv's forces on the separatist stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine had left 20 people dead, accusing Kyiv of committing a "war crime".

Moscow accused Ukraine's army of firing a Tochka-U missile at a residential area in Donetsk, in one of the most serious attacks on the city since Russia sent troops into Ukraine over two weeks ago.

Rebels, who have controlled the city since 2014, had earlier said fragments from a rocket they shot down had left 16 civilians dead.

"Twenty peaceful residents have died," Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

"Another 28 people including children were seriously injured and hospitalised." "The use of such weapons in a city where there are no firing positions of the armed forces," Konashenkov added, "is a war crime."

The ministry provided no evidence and Ukraine denied launching an attack, which came as Russian forces were shelling the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and other cities more than two weeks after invading.

News agencies could not independently verify the statements by either side.

Earlier on Monday, separatist officials said more than a dozen people had been killed after they shot down a projectile and remnants landed in Donetsk's centre.

Separatist health officials later released updated figures matching those announced by the Russian defence ministry.

Official separatist Telegram channels distributed photos and video of the aftermath, showing burnt out cars, bodies strewn in the street, and damage to the exterior of shops.

In an interview with Russian state-run television, the head of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, said the shot-down rocket had inflicted damage to residential areas.

"People were waiting in line near an ATM and were standing at a bus stop," he said in remarks broadcast on Russian television.

"There are children among the dead," Pushilin added, adding that the casualty count would have been higher had the rocket not been downed.

Reports of the attack came as Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met for a new round of talks to resolve more than two weeks of fierce fighting.

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