At least 17 people died after rocket fire hit a convoy with refugees from Luhansk. Women and children were among the victims. Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the death toll could be higher once the recovery is finished.
Kiev claims the pro-Russian forces targeted the convoy even though the buses waved white flags. The military released this video with survivors explaining exactly what happened.
“The terrorists committed a bloody crime at 9:40 this morning. Near Luhansk, on the road between Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka, the mercenaries used Grad systems and grenade-launchers imported from Russia to shoot at a column of civilians attempting to leave the combat zone,” said Lysenko. “Many people died, including women and children. The number of casualties is currently being determined.”
Pro-Russians denied the attack happened, but then Donetsk People’s Republic prime minister Andrei Purgin suggested Kiev attacked the buses.
“The Ukrainians themselves have bombed the road constantly with airplanes and Grads. It seems they’ve now killed more civilians like they’ve been doing for months now. We don’t have the ability to send Grads into that territory,” he claimed.
Ukraine’s other military spokesman Anatoly Proshin appeared on Ukraine television to describe what the passengers endured.
“A powerful artillery strike hit a refugee convoy near the area of Khryashchuvatye and Novosvitlivka,” he said. “The force of the blow on the convoy was so strong that people were burned alive in the vehicles – they weren’t able to get themselves out.”
Unfortunately, the tragedy did not stop constant shelling and fighting between the two sides, which dampens attempts to recover the dead and wounded. On Monday, officials recovered fifteen bodies, but fighting frequently interrupted the search. Searches continued Tuesday evening, which led to two more victims.
Luhansk and Donetsk are the last two cities held by the pro-Russian forces. Kiev moved in troops to the east in an effort to retake the region that separated in February after Parliament ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. Since mid-April, fights killed at least 2,119, including 20 children, and wounded 5,043. Before the war, Donetsk boasted a population of over a million people. There are fewer than 600,000 people left in the city.