Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk shopping area kills dozens, local officials say | Ukraine


Russian-installed mayor and governor say another 20 people were injured in attack on occupied city in eastern Ukraine

Sun 21 Jan 2024 16.20 CET

At least 25 people have been killed after Ukrainian forces shelled a busy suburban shopping area in the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to local officials.

Alexei Kulemzin, the city’s Russian-installed mayor, said Ukrainian artillery had fired on a bustling district where shops and a market are located. Denis Pushilin, the Russian-appointed head of the Donetsk region, said emergency services were working at the scene, adding that a further 20 people, including two children, had been injured in the strike on the suburb of Tekstilshchik.

Pushilin said the area had been hit by 155mm and 152mm calibre shells fired from the direction of Kurakhove and Krasnohorivka to the west. Local authorities have declared Monday a day of mourning.

Reuters photographs and video taken at the scene showed people crying, some of whom said they had lost relatives, and bodies lying in the snow near one of the city’s markets.

Shattered shopfronts and broken glass could be seen in videos shared by Russian state media, along with what appeared to be bodies lying on the ground nearby.

A local resident called Tatiana said she had heard an incoming projectile overhead, and had hidden under her market stall. “I saw smoke, people screamed, a woman was crying,” she told a local media outlet.

“Where is there anything military here? It’s just a market,” another resident told the same outlet. “This is one of the strongest blows in recent times.”

Russia’s foreign ministry denounced the strike, saying “security threats and acts of terrorism should not be committed from the territory of Ukraine”. In a statement, it added: “These terrorist attacks by the Kyiv regime clearly demonstrate its lack of political will towards achieving peace and the settlement of this conflict by diplomatic means.”

Ukraine has not commented on the event and the claims could not be independently verified.

Donetsk is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia claimed to have annexed in 2022 in a move condemned as illegal by most countries at the UN general assembly. Moscow does not fully control any of the four regions.

Elsewhere, a fire broke out at a chemical transport terminal at Russia’s Ust-Luga port after two explosions on Sunday, regional officials said. Local media reported that Ukrainian drones had attacked the port, causing a gas tank to explode.

Yuri Zapalatsky, the head of Russia’s Kingisepp district, where the port is located, said there had been no casualties but that the area had been placed on high alert.

Fire breaks out at Russian gas terminal in Baltic Sea port – video

The blaze was at a site run by Russia’s second largest natural gas producer, Novatek, 100 miles south-west of St Petersburg. In a press statement to the Russian media outlet RBC, the company said the fire was the result of an “external influence”. It also said it had paused operations at the port.

The Fontanka news outlet reported that two drones had been detected flying towards St Petersburg on Sunday morning, but that they were redirected towards Kingisepp.

The Russian defence ministry did not report any drone activity in the Kingisepp area in its daily briefing. It said four Ukrainian drones had been downed in Smolensk region, and that two more had been shot down in the Oryol and Tula regions.

Russian officials previously confirmed that a Ukrainian drone had been downed on the outskirts of St Petersburg on Thursday.

News of the attacks came as Ukraine’s military played down Russia’s capture of the small village of Krokhmalne in Kharkiv region as a “temporary phenomenon”.

“We simply don’t report on the repulse of 100-200 metres, and for Russian propagandists, any victory must be presented to explain why they lost 7,055 soldiers at the front in the Khortytsia zone of responsibility in January alone,” the Ukrainian ground forces command spokesperson, Volodymyr Fityo, told the Ukrainian digital broadcasting station Hromadske on Sunday.

Fityo said the frontlines were shifting daily and that Ukrainian troops had been moved to prepared reserve positions to hold the defence and prevent Russia from advancing further.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces claimed on Sunday that Russia had lost 376,030 troops in Ukraine since the beginning of the war. The number, which has not been independently verified, includes 760 casualties in the past day.

The figures, which cover the period from the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion on 24 February 2022 to 21 January 2024, also include details such as the number of weapons, vehicles and defence systems Ukraine believes Russia has lost.

According to the release, this includes 6,181 tanks, 11,466 armoured fighting vehicles, 11,862 vehicles and fuel tanks, 8,875 artillery systems and 968 multiple-launch rocket systems.

Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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