KIEV, January 24. /TASS/. As many as 20 people were killed in the artillery shelling of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Vyacheslav Abroskin, chief of the Donetsk region interior ministry department, said on Saturday.
“As many as 20 dead bodies have been received by the morgue. The figure is growing. The police have cordoned off the district, search operations are underway,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday, Ukraine’s interior ministry placed the blame for the shelling on self-defence forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
The DPR ministry of defence said Ukraine’s media reports about the shelling were hoax. “This is absolute misinformation. The forces of militia have not opened fire on Mariupol and its living quarters,” a spokesman of the defence ministry told the Donetsk news agency.
The ministry said the militia was holding the fort at Novoazovsk (a town 40 kilometres from Mariupol, controlled by the DPR) and they were not delivering any shelling there.
A man, living in Mariupol, who witnessed the shelling, told TASS that the shell had come from the settlement of Stary Krym some 12 kilometres northwest of Mariupol, from the territory controlled by Ukraine’s Armed Forces.
The Ukrainian military are reinforcing troops near Mariupol, which came under shelling on Saturday, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said at a meeting of the operational headquarters chaired by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
“We are receiving reconnaissance information that additional salvo fire systems are being pulled closer to Mariupol. And we are taking relevant measures to reinforce /our/ artillery units,” the minister said.
Poltorak said that Mariupol had been shelled from the settlement of Sakhanka located between Mariupol and Novoazovsk. He said there had been sic Grad multiple launch systems, of which four had been destroyed by the Ukrainian military.
“In general, the situation is being seriously aggravated along the entire line of combat operations,” he said.
Ukraine is calling on the United Nations Security Council to immediately call a session over the shelling of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.
“I have just called a meeting of ambassadors of the Group of Seven countries and ambassadors of member countries of the United Nations Security Council. We call on our Western partners and members of the United Nations Security Council to organize an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council,” he said.
The Azovstal metallurgical enterprises had to stop its work due to the shelling of Ukraine’s Mariupol, the local media write on Saturday.
“On Saturday morning, the shelling damaged the electricity station, which was used for lifting water. Thus the Azovstal enterprise of the Metinvest group was cut off technical water. The enterprise stopped two boilers of the electricity and steam-electric blowing station, as well as two blast furnaces,” the enterprise’s director Enver Tsitishvili said.
"Azovstal Iron & Steel Works" is a part of metallurgical division (Metinvest group) and one of the largest, world-known metallurgical companies in Ukraine.
A ceasefire was agreed upon at talks between the parties to the Ukrainian conflict mediated by the OSCE on September 5 in Belarusian capital Minsk two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed his plan to settle the situation in the east of Ukraine.
Two weeks later, on September 20, the Contact Group adopted a memorandum on implementing a ceasefire. The nine-item document includes a ban on all weapons, pulling back heavy weapons from the line of engagement and setting up a buffer zone of 15 kilometres. It also entrusts the OSCE with a task of controlling implementation of the agreements.
On December 9, the parties to the conflict announced “the regime of silence” in the area of Kiev’s combat operation in Donbas aiming to come over to implementation of the Minsk accords.
Both Kiev and the self-proclaimed republics declared an urgency to pull back heavy weapons, to exchange prisoners of war and to demilitarise the region.
On January 16, the Minsk talks of the Contact Group on Ukraine were frustrated because of the situation around the Donetsk airport and the failure to agree the agenda.
In recent days the situation has deteriorated after a passenger bus en route from Donetsk to Zlatoustovka came under shelling on January 13. Twelve civilians were killed and at least 16 wounded. Artillery shelling and bombing strikes at Donbass cities have intensified and dozens of peaceful civilians, including women, children, and the elderly, died in them.
On January 22, a Berlin meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France has ended with definite shifts rather than with a considerable progress necessary for ceasing fire in war-torn Donbas. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ukraine’s Pavel Klimkin and France’s Laurent Fabius have succeeded in negotiating a statement on the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact stipulated in the Minsk agreements on September 19 as well as on intensifying the Contact Group’s work. Still, the decision to hold a summit in “Normandy format” that Kazakhstan is ready to host has not been taken yet. The joint statement adopted after the meeting says that an appeal for a ceasefire is not implemented while measures to alter the situation are listed.
On Saturday, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) suggested organising a local truce around the airport in Donetsk and the central part of the city for providing humanitarian relief to the locals.