Rockets hammered a suburb of the rebel-held city of Donetsk over the weekend, as the conflict in Ukraine raged on. At least four people were killed in the wave of attacks on Friday night and Saturday morning. The government and the pro-Russian insurgents both blamed each other for the bombardment.
On Friday, the rebels attacked government forces in the eastern Luhansk region, killing at least 23 soldiers and wounding 93 in one of the worst losses suffered by the military. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that the army would retaliate, adding that “tens and hundreds” of rebels would be killed for each slain soldier. The conflict has seen a significant increase in violence since Poroshenko called off a cease-fire on July 1.
In April, the separatists declared independence in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. They were forced to retreat to the city of Donetsk last week after government forces laid siege to the rebel stronghold of Sloviansk.
The European Union blacklisted 11 rebel leaders last week but only released their names on Saturday. Aleksander Borodai and Marat Bashirov, the self-proclaimed separatist prime ministers of the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, were included in the recent round of sanctions. The EU has frozen their assets, and issued travel bans against them.
As the conflict in Ukraine continued to rage on, civilians in the Marinka suburb of Donetsk have found themselves caught in the crossfire. Oleksander Lukyanchenko, the official mayor of Donetsk, announced on his website that public transport had stopped running in the suburb, stoking residents’ feelings of resentment toward the government.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Friday slammed Russia for “outrageous” violations of its sovereignty. It blamed the Kremlin for a shooting attack against a border post that occurred overnight Thursday. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by accusing Ukrainian forces of shooting from across the border at a police car in the region of Rostov.
In an unusual case of sports affecting politics, the FIFA World Cup Final will bring both Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin to the same stadium in Brazil. A formal meeting has not been set, but the two leaders will be spending time in the same VIP area. According to an anonymous Brazilian official, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the one who succeeded in convincing Poroshenko to come to Rio de Janeiro. Merkel, who is attempting to broker a peace agreement between the two sides, will also be attending the match.
Tensions between Moscow and Kiev came to a head in February when then-President Viktor Yanukovich, a Kremlin ally, fled to Russia following violent clashes between government forces and protestors demanding better ties with the European Union. The Ukrainian parliament set up an interim government after deposing the erstwhile president. Moscow branded the move a coup. In March, it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, thanks in large part to pro-Russian forces on the ground in the region. The violence spread to the eastern part of the country, where over 400 people have since been killed. Tens of thousands have been forced to abandon their homes in the wake of the hostilities.
The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine all called for the resumption of peace talks earlier this month. Thus far, their efforts have only resulted in a conflict that continued to rage in the suburbs of Donetsk.
By Yitzchak Besser