ELEVEN UKRAINE CIVILIANS KILLED WHEN ROCKET HITS BUS

NewsMax on January 13, 2015, published an AFP report on eleven Ukrainian civilians killed and nearly 20 injured when a long-range Grad rocket apparently fired by pro-Russian insurgents hit an intercity bus in the separatist east.

Local police said the rocket appeared to have gone astray after being aimed by the gunmen at a checkpoint set up by government soldiers on the main highway connecting the rebel stronghold of Donetsk with Ukraine’s southeastern coast on the Sea of Azov.

The incident, which was condemned by the UN Security Council, was the deadliest attack on civilians since the rival sides signed a much-maligned Sept. 5 ceasefire that only partially stemmed the fighting and did little to resolve the insurgents’ independence claims.

Both Ukrainian military and regional police told AFP that the death toll from the incident included seven women and four men.

The local administration said 17 others had been hospitalized near the town of Volnovakha, where the bus was hit, 22 miles southwest of Donetsk.

Ukrainian General Bogdan Bondar told parliament that the rebels had staged “a provocation” by launching their strike from a residential area in the hope of drawing retaliatory fire from state soldiers that would kill scores of civilians.

The UN Security Council in a unanimous statement of the 15 members, including Russia, called for an investigation into the incident, while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden expressed “regret at the increasing number of ceasefire violations by Russia’s proxies” in a call to Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the White House said.

The latest casualties were reported after the foreign ministers of Germany and France failed to help their counterparts from Moscow and Kiev bridge differences over ways to end a conflict that has claimed more than 4,700 lives.

Kiev accuses the Kremlin of arming the insurgents and refusing to withdraw its own troops from the eastern war zone, soldiers Moscow denies having ever sent.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said an international summit involving both Poroshenko and Putin would now require more preparations and talks with pro-Russian rebels.

“Russia is trying to position itself as a mediator in the conflict, distancing itself from it,” said political analyst Oleksy Melnyk of Kiev’s Ramzukov Centre.

“But conducting negotiations with rebel leaders who are really nothing but Russian puppets is a hopeless task,” he added.

Donetsk, a once bustling city of nearly one million people that now stands half empty and suffers chronic power and water shortages, has been the target of especially heavy rocket and artillery fire in the past week.

Kiev believes the militants may be stepping up their frequency of attacks to undermine the chances of Russia agreeing to a settlement that preserves Ukraine’s eastern border.

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