Tensions in eastern Ukraine surged on Thursday following reports that many civilians had been killed in an explosion at a bus stop in Donetsk.Explosion-Rocks-Abuja-300x232

Separatist-run news sites said that 13 people died and more than 20 were injured when a grenade exploded as passengers were boarding a trolleybus. The Kiev-loyal authorities put the number of dead at eight.

Both sides blamed each other for the attack, which came on the anniversary of the unification of East and West Ukraine in 1919.

Donetsk separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that the shell was fired from Ukrainian artillery north of the city. In response, he ordered 17 Ukrainian soldiers who had been captured at Donetsk airport to be paraded at the scene of the attack.

The soldiers “were forced on their knees while residents shouted ‘Fascists’ and ‘Killers’ at them,” Zakharchenko told the Interfax news agency.

Photos and videos carried by local media showed residents beating and kicking the prisoners, many of whom were injured and dressed in civilian clothes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the incident “a monstrous crime” and accused the Ukrainian government of derailing efforts to find a peaceful solution.

“It is clear that human lives won’t stop the party of war in Kiev and their foreign sponsors,” Lavrov said in a statement.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry, on the other hand, blamed the separatists for the attack, arguing that the bus stop is more than 15 kilometres away from the next Ukrainian position.

In a highly symbolic blow, the military confirmed that it had given up the main terminal of Donetsk airport.

The airport had been held by Ukrainian forces since the fighting began last year.

The decision was taken because the building was completely destroyed and could no longer be defended, Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in Kiev.

Reports said that a roof in the terminal had collapsed, burying Ukrainian soldiers. Lysenko said that a search for them was impossible because of the fighting. He said that 16 injured soldiers were captured by the separatists and did not exclude that more servicemen remain under the rubble.

The spokesman said that government forces continue to hold other airport buildings and the runway, which he said had been destroyed.

In all, 10 soldiers were killed and 19 injured over the past 24 hours, Lysenko said.

The latest surge in violence comes after another round of talks between the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said late Wednesday that there had been “discernible progress” over the withdrawal of heavy weapons from September’s ceasefire demarcation line.

The ministers called on the signatories of September’s Minsk agreements to meet in the coming days to implement the ceasefire and the weapons withdrawal “in accordance with the line of contact as agreed in Minsk on September 19.”

That line would mean that the separatists would have to cede Donetsk airport to the Ukrainian side.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the intentions “expressed on the Berlin table are pointing in the right direction.”

However, NATO said it had spotted Russian equipment in the region and expressed concern about the separatists’ military gains.

“The Russian-backed forces have renewed capability now to bring pressure on the Ukrainian troops and have in several places moved the line of contact to the West,” the alliance’s top commander, General Philip Breedlove, said.


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