Ukraine: Rockets hit separatist Donetsk town hall

The mayor’s office in a key eastern Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists was hit by rockets on Sunday morning, Russian state agencies reported. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

According to RIA Novosti, the municipal building in Donetsk was badly damaged in the attack, which local separatist authorities blamed on Ukraine.

Photos circulating on social media showed plumes of smoke swirling around the building, rows of blown windows and a partially collapsed ceiling. RIA Novosti and local media also reported that three cars parked nearby burned down as a result of the strike.

Kyiv did not immediately claim responsibility or comment on the attack.

Kremlin-backed separatist authorities have previously accused Ukraine of numerous strikes on infrastructure and residential targets in the occupied territories, often using the long-range HIMARS rockets supplied by the United States, without providing corroborating information.

The strikes came a day after two men from a former Soviet republic fired on volunteer soldiers during gunnery training at a Russian military firing range near Ukraine, killing 11 people and injuring 15 before to be themselves killed. The Russian Defense Ministry, which reported the killings, called the incident a terrorist attack.

The incidents come amid a hasty mobilization ordered by President Vladimir Putin to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine amid a series of battlefield setbacks following his invasion in February. The call sparked protests and caused hundreds of thousands to flee Russia.

Also on Saturday, a Washington-based think tank late accused Moscow of carrying out “mass and forced deportations of Ukrainians”, which it said likely amounts to ethnic cleansing.

In its regular online update, the Institute for the Study of War referred to statements made this week by Russian authorities, which claimed that “several thousand” children from a southern region occupied by Moscow had been placed in nursing homes and children’s camps in Russia amid an ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive. The initial remarks by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin were reported by state agency RIA Novosti on Friday.

The Institute also said Russian authorities “may further be engaged in a broader campaign of ethnic cleansing by depopulating Ukrainian territory through expulsions and repopulating Ukrainian cities with imported Russian citizens”, in violation of international law. humanitarian.

Russian authorities have previously openly admitted to placing children from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, who they believe were orphans, for adoption into Russian families, in potential violation of a key international treaty on the prevention of genocide.

The 1948 Genocide Convention, which has been ratified by more than 140 states, including Ukraine and Russia, includes “the forcible transfer of children from the (targeted) group to another group” in its definition of genocide.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian army on Sunday morning accused pro-Kremlin fighters of deporting civilians to the occupied territories in order to house officers in their homes, an act it also called a violation of international humanitarian law.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its regular Facebook update that the deportations were taking place in the Russian town of Rubizhne in the eastern region of Luhansk, where Kyiv has launched a counteroffensive. He did not provide corroborating evidence for his claim.

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Christi C. Elwood