Russian attack kills 6 civilians in Donetsk region, Ukraine’s emergency service says

A Russian shell smashed into a two-story building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Toretsk on Monday, killing six civilians who were sheltering there, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said.

It said on Facebook that rescuers found five bodies in the rubble and pulled three people out alive, but one later died in hospital.

“The town of Toretsk was under fire today from early in this morning. A two-story building sheltering people was destroyed as a shell slammed into it,” the Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said.

It posted photographs on its Facebook page of rescue workers digging through rubble and what was left of the devastated building, and said the search for survivors had been abandoned.

Reuters could not immediately check details of the report independently. Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, denies deliberately targeting civilians but cities have been flattened and millions have fled the fighting.

Evacuations in eastern, northern Ukraine

Toretsk was taken briefly in the Russian invasion of 2014, but Ukrainian forces ended up taking the city back.

Kyiv says Moscow is planning another assault to capture the last Ukrainian-held pocket Donetsk province.

Five people, wearing light blue helmets, digging through piles of boards and rubble.
Rescuers release a man from the ruins of a residential building destroyed by a Russian military strike in Toretsk, Ukraine. (Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Reuters)

Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian shelling of the region is incessant. Four Russian strikes had been carried out on the city of Kramatorsk, he said, urging civilians to evacuate.

“We’re seeing that the Russians want to sow fear and panic,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “The front line is moving, so civilians must leave the region and evacuate.

Nearly a 1,000 civilians were evacuated Monday from Russian-held territories in the northern Kharkiv region, Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. About a third of the region remains in Russian hands after Moscow’s troops overran it in April. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second-largest city, and is close to the border with Russia.

Funeral for soldier from Russian-occupied area

In Kyiv on Monday, a funeral was held at St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery for a Ukrainian solider killed when his car hit a land mine near Izium last week. His family couldn’t bury him in their hometown in eastern Ukraine because it remains under Russian occupation.

The cathedral was packed with mourners paying their last respects to Fanat, as the soldier was known. Whenever the priest paused, the voice of the soldier’s mother echoed in the church.

“We will love you forever and ever. We will miss you so much!” she cried, caressing the closed coffin. “Why do we need to live in this cursed war?”

Men in military uniforms carry a coffin, draped in a blue and yellow flag, on their shoulders, in front of a white building with gold domes on top.
Ukrainian soldiers carry the coffin of a soldier killed during the war with Russian troops during his funeral at St. Michael’s cathedral in Kyiv. (Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)

‘Illegal treatment’ of prisoners of war

Ukraine’s foreign ministry accused Russia on Monday of treating Ukrainian prisoners of war illegally and using them for political purposes, and demanded humane treatment of captured foreigners fighting for Ukraine.

It urged Russia to adhere strictly to the provisions of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions which define international legal standards for humanitarian treatment.

“Ukraine condemns the illegal treatment of Ukrainian prisoners of war by the Russian Federation, in particular use of them for its own political purposes,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said.

“We demand from the Russian side to strictly adhere to the provisions of international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, in relation to servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are prisoners of war.”

It said “all foreign citizens and stateless persons” fighting on Ukrainian territory for Ukraine’s armed forces were voluntarily accepted for military service under Ukrainian law.

In June, a Moroccan and two Britons were sentenced to death by a Russian-backed separatist court in east Ukraine for fighting for Ukraine. They have appealed against the sentences.

Last week, Britain expressed “deep concern” over reports of the death of a British aid worker while in the custody of “a Russian proxy in Ukraine.”

Russia did not immediately respond to the foreign ministry statement. Russia has previously said it is looking into allegations of mistreatment. Ukraine has said it checks all information regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and will investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.

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