Russian rockets hit apartment building in Ukraine’s Donbas, US presses on diplomatic front

Ukrainian soldiers sit on a armoured vehicle as they drive on a road in eastern Ukraine, on July 9, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

KYIV (REUTERS) - At least six people were killed and more than 30 are feared trapped after Russian Uragan rockets hit a five-storey apartment block in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, leading to the building collapsing, the region’s governor said on Sunday (July 10).

Ukraine reported clashes with Russian troops on Sunday (July 10) on fronts in the east and south, with six civilians killed in one rocket attack, as the United States sought to marshal international support in opposing Russia’s invasion.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the strike on the apartment building took place on Saturday evening in the town of Chasiv Yar.

He said six people had been confirmed killed and five wounded.

According to information from residents, at least 34 people are likely trapped in the ruins, he said on the Telegram messaging channel.

Russia, which says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine, denies deliberately attacking civilians.

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, parts of which were held by pro-Russian separatists before the conflict began in February, comprise the eastern industrial region of the Donbas that Russia is seeking to take over.

Russian forces attacked Ukrainian positions near the eastern town of Sloviansk but were forced to withdraw, Ukraine’s military said, adding that Russian forces had launched a cruise missile attack on the northeastern city of Kharkiv from their side of the border.

It gave no details of damage or casualties.

Luhansk region Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces were gathering in the area of the village of Bilohorivka, about 50 km east of Sloviansk.

“The enemy is ... shelling the surrounding settlements, carrying out air strikes, but it is still unable to quickly occupy the entire Luhansk region,” he said on the Telegram message channel.

“During the last night alone, the Russians launched seven artillery barrages and four rocket strikes.” Reuters could not independently verify battlefield accounts.

Russia’s Tass news agency, meanwhile, cited pro-Russian separatists as saying Ukrainian forces had fired an artillery barrage into residential districts of the city of Donetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday the Russian army had targeted civilians on purpose.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special operation” to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists. Kyiv and its Western allies call the invasion an unprovoked land grab.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw.

In the south, Ukrainian forces fired missiles and artillery at Russian positions including ammunition depots in the Chornobaivka area, Ukraine’s military command said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Asia, where he has been urging the international community to join forces to condemn Russian aggression.

He told journalists on Saturday he had raised concerns with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, over Beijing’s alignment with Moscow.

The two met for more than five hours on the sidelines of a meeting of G-20 foreign ministers on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Russia’s Sergei Lavrov walked out of a meeting there on Friday, denouncing the West for “frenzied criticism”.

The Chinese foreign ministry said, without giving details, that Mr Wang and Mr Blinken had discussed Ukraine.

It quoted Mr Wang as saying Sino-American relations were in danger of being further led “astray”, with many people believing that “the United States is suffering from an increasingly serious bout of ‘Chinaphobia’.”

Shortly before the Russian invasion, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, although US officials have said they have not seen China evade US-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.

Mr Blinken was in Thailand on Sunday and due to visit Japan on Monday.

Mr Zelensky dismissed several of Ukraine’s senior envoys abroad, saying it was part of “normal diplomatic practice”.

He said he would appoint new ambassadors to Germany, India, the Czech Republic, Norway and Hungary.

Mr Zelensky has urged his diplomats to drum up international support and high-end weapons to slow Russia’s advance.

But Ukraine suffered a diplomatic setback on Saturday, when Canada said it would return a repaired turbine that Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom used to supply natural gas to Germany.

Ukraine had argued that a return would violate sanctions on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signalled that the Kremlin was in no mood for compromise, saying sanctions against Russia risked causing “catastrophic” energy price rises.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said sanctions were working, echoing calls for more deliveries of high-precision Western weapons.

“Russians desperately try to lift those sanctions which proves that they do hurt them. Therefore, sanctions must be stepped up until Putin drops his aggressive plans,” Mr Kuleba told a forum in Dubrovnik by videolink.

Ukrainian soldiers unload two British armoured personnel carriers in eastern Ukraine, on July 9, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
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