Shells hit a school and a public transit bus in rebel-held Donetsk, Ukraine, officials say
Wednesday was first day of school year in Donetsk, rebels say
Regional authority blames rebels, who blame Ukrainian military
A shell landed near a school as children began their school year in the war-weary eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Wednesday morning, killing at least three adults and shattering what would have been a step toward normalcy for dozens of students.
Shells also hit a public transit bus in the city about the same time, killing six people in or near the vehicle, city officials said.
The shelling in Donetsk, held for months by pro-Russian rebels, came despite a ceasefire that Ukraine’s government reached with separatist leaders last month.
A shell landed 5 meters from Donetsk’s School 57 about 10 a.m., shattering windows and doors on the first and second floors, local officials said. It was the first day of the school year in rebel-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, a debut that was delayed by a month because of shelling and clashes between separatists and the Ukrainian military.
Conflicting reports emerged over how many people were killed at the school. Officials at the rebel-held city office said a biology teacher and two parents died, and five other people were injured.
Officials with the Donetsk regional authority, which is aligned with the Kiev government, said four people were killed and eight were injured.
Both sides said no children died. It wasn’t clear whether any of the injured were children.
Though most Donetsk-area schools opened Wednesday, four of the region’s 150 schools remained closed because of shelling, the rebels said on an official social media account.
School 57 serves children ages 6 to 17, and more than 230 people were there at the time, including 70 children and 28 teachers, according to the website of the Kiev-aligned Donetsk regional authority.
It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible for the shelling. The Donetsk regional authority blamed the rebels, who in turn blamed the Ukrainian military.
Also Wednesday morning, a shell hit a small public transportation bus, killing six people – two people inside and four who were nearby – and injuring 25 others, the Donetsk city office said. It wasn’t clear who fired that shell, either.
Ukrainian government forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine for months. Both sides declared a ceasefire September 5, but some battles have taken place since then, including in Donetsk.
On Monday alone, nine Ukrainian soldiers were killed in fighting at the city’s airport, the government said. At least three civilians were killed in shelling in Donetsk from Sunday night into Monday morning, city officials said.
Unrest in Ukraine began with protests in the country’s capital last year after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, favoring closer ties to Russia, dropped plans to sign a political and economic agreement with the European Union.
After months of protests and days of deadly clashes between demonstrators and security personnel in Kiev, Parliament ousted Yanukovych in February. Weeks later, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
In April, violence broke out in two Ukrainian regions that border Russia – Donetsk and Luhansk – as separatist leaders declared independence from the government in Kiev. Since mid-April, the conflict between the pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military has cost more than 2,500 lives, according to the United Nations.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of arming and supporting the rebels and of sending Russian troops over the border to fight them, a claim Moscow denies.
Journalist Victoria Butenko reported from Kiev. CNN’s Jason Hanna wrote from Atlanta.