Terror attack near Volnovakha

January 15 in Ukraine was a national mourning day commemorating people killed in town of Volnovakha in the Luhansk region in Eastern Ukraine by the pro-Russian terrorists on January 13.

“Pro-Russian terrorists hit the peaceful passenger bus which stopped at the checkpoint, with an aimed rocket shot. They were aiming at both Ukrainian servicemen and peaceful Ukrainian citizen”, said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in his statement.  Mr. Poroshenko also told that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of France Francois Hollande expressed their condolence and support to the Ukrainian people in their fight against terrorism.

Ten people were killed and 13 wounded after a Grad multiple rocket launcher firing from separatist-controlled territory hit a passenger bus near a Ukrainian-controlled checkpoint outside the town of Volnovakha, Donetsk Oblast, according to Ukrainian authorities.  The civilian minibus was carrying passengers from the separatist stronghold of Donetsk to the village of Zlatoustivka. Later on another three severely wounded people passed away in the hospital. The terrorist attack claimed a total of 12 lives of innocent people, 13 people were injured.

The press service of Ukraine’s anti-terrorist operation reported that attack took place at approximately 2.30pm on Tuesday January 13. Military spokesman Vladislav Seleznov told Ukrainska Pravda that six of those killed were women and other four – men.  According to a local newspaper a teenage girl was among the dead, as well as one fighter of Kyiv 2 volunteer battalion, who was patrolling the nearby checkpoint.

The head of the Donetsk regional police, Vyacheslav Abroskin, said that Russian–backed separatists hit the vehicle while firing from the town of Dokuchayevsk at the Ukrainian forceslocated around Volnovakha.

“There was a direct hit at the bus,” Abroskin wrote on his Facebook page, adding that the wounded including one policeman and one border guard had been sent to hospital.

According to the OSCE Special monitoring mission (SMM) report, “At approximately 14:35 hrs on 13 January the regional traffic police confirmed to the SMM that a Grad rocket struck close to a civilian bus when it stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint approximately 2km north of Volnovakha”. The SMM arrived at the location of the incident at 17:45hrs and witnessed the removal of two of the dead passengers from the bus. The bus had shrapnel damage consistent with a nearby rocket impact, estimated by the SMM to be 12-15 meters from the side of the bus. In parallel, the SMM will continue its observations and establish its own findings regarding the incident.

The Donetsk oblast prosecutor’s office qualifies the attack on Volnovakha checkpoint as an act of terrorism, as was stated by the prosecutor’s office press service .

According to a NEWSru.ua journalist, the militants were shelling the Ukrainian checkpoint with Grad rocket systems at the time when a passenger bus with peaceful citizens was passing by. As a result the bus was pierced with numerous rocket splinters. The local Ostrov web publication with reference to the DNR press service also informs that the DNR-affiliated illegal unit militants were attacking the checkpoint with Grad rocket missile. They have fired about 40 missiles in the direction of checkpoint, several of them hit the Bohdan passenger bus being on Donetsk-Mariupol route, which was moving along “Mariupol-Donetsk highway”.

It’s worth mentioning that the pro-Russian separatists were hasty to brag about the checkpoint shelling, and later, upon getting to know about tragic outcomes, they recanted their words. After the tragedy the DNR site posted the following piece of news: “Rebellion: Donetsk shelled with Grads again, punishers checkpoint near Volnovakha is hit”, where separatists admitted to have shelled the checkpoint. “Fighting goes on in the vicinity of Berezove (near Volnovakha), the fire was brought down to an Ukrainian checkpoint, the Ukrainians are attacking Dokuchaevsk again”, the message states.

Later separatists posted the rebuttal of checkpoint shelling by their troops on the website: “A passenger bus departing from Donetsk is said to have been hit by artillery fire”. “Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense of the self-proclaimed DNR declares to be not involved in the accident”, the message tells. “No one was firing there. They can allege what they’d like to” – told the deputy chief of military units of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk Eduard Basurin in his interview for RIA News.

Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) has requested the European Union, PACE, European Parliament, USA, Canada, Australia and Japan to recognize DNR and LNR units as terroris organizations in connection with Volnovakha events. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk also called on the international community to recognize DNR and LNR to be terroris organizations .

The UN Security Council considered the declaration about Volnovakha events despite the pressure from the Russian delegation – source. UN Security Council strongly condemned the terrible shelling of the bus near Volnovakha by terrorist, resulting in casualties among peaceful citizens. This statement was made by the Security Council on Tuesday despite diplomatic pressure from Russia, a source at the UN Headquarters informs.

OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ivica Dacic, the Foreign Minister of Serbia, harshly condemned the shelling of passenger bus near Volnovakha and invoked to stop using force in the region.  “I strongly condemned this attack and offered my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. I called on all sides to immediately halt the use of force and exercise restraint. I urge them now again to do the same and reiterate the necessity to fully respect the regime of quiet. Obviously, the situation in and around Ukraine continues to pose a serious threat for the stability of the region, as well as for the European and global security. The main priority of our work will be to support all efforts which can lead towards a peace process”, OSCE Chairman told.  According to Mr. Dacic, he closely follows the situation in the reports of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine. He called upon all the conflicting parties to ensure safe and unhindered access of the observers “to enable them to do their job”.

US Vice President expressed his condolences for the civilians killed in the bombing of a passenger bus in Donetsk Oblast, and expressed his regret at the increasing number of ceasefire violations by Russia’s proxies.  “We condemn continued attacks by separatists as they attempt to control additional territory in violation of the Minsk agreements”, Marie Harf, U.S. Department of State Speaker, said.

The shelling of the bus near Volnovakha was condemned by the EU as well. Meanwhile, as was told by Maja Kocijancic, the Speaker of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, the Minsk protocol is still forming the basis for future arrangements. “Our hearts are with the families of the victims. But I would like to emphasize the necessity to strengthen monitoring over maintaining the ceasefire announced under the Minsk protocol. The latest ceasefire is still of key importance for achieving a sustainable political solution for Ukrainian crisis, based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country. The EU supports these efforts”, Ms.  Kocijancic stressed.

Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg called upon Russia to stop supporting separatists in Eastern Ukraine and exert “all available influence” to compel them to adhere to the Minsk arrangements. “NATO is not seeking confrontation with Russia. NATO is interested to support constructive relations with Russia. But this is possible only if Russia is alike-minded”, Jens Stoltenberg emphasized.

United Nations has estimated that more than 4,700 civilians have died as a result of military conflict in eastern Ukraine, which started when Kremlin-backed militants seized government buildings in April.