Ukrainian troops continue their onslaught on the rebel cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia is working with the Red Cross to allow a convoy of humanitarian aid cross border into the battered regions.
Wednesday, August 20
Donetsk has faced another day of heavy shelling, as RT's Paula Slier reports from the besieged city. Once prospering, it has turned into a place on the verge of extinction with its empty streets and people, either hiding in shelters or fleeing their native city. But some locals have decided to stay despite the humanitarian catastrophe in the city with no water and electricity: “I was born here, I was raised here, on these streets - why should I leave this city just because someone decided to bomb it.”
Since March 13, a total of 951 civilians have been killed in the Donetsk region, according to a tally published by the city council’s healthcare department.
An advance mission of the International Committee for the Red Cross has been dispatched to Ukraine to monitor the planned route for the Russian humanitarian aid convoy, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported Wednesday.
The announcement comes after a meeting in Moscow between the Red Cross and Russian diplomats to discuss the aid mission.
Tuesday, August 19
Ukraine has banned 14 Russian television channels including Russia Today and Life News from broadcasting on cable networks in Ukraine, accusing them of spreading war propaganda, Ukrainian interior ministry aide Anton Gerashenko said on Tuesday.
The fourteen channels are banned temporarily for "broadcasting propaganda of war and violence," Gerashenko said in a Facebook post. (Reuters)
Artillery fire started early in the morning in the town of Makeevka, located to the east of Donetsk. Reuters reported residents as saying it was the first time there had been shelling in the area. The town’s railway station came under heavy fire, and most of the local residents have gone down to basements or shelters.
The bodies of 15 refugees killed in the shelling of a convoy to the southeast of Lugansk on Monday morning have been identified, Ukraine’s Security Council said Tuesday, blaming militiamen for their deaths. The self-defense forces in Eastern Ukraine denied the accusations, saying that they have neither force nor the means to conduct such an attack. The prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexandr Zakharchenko, called the Kiev’s statement “a pure and simple fake”.
Civilians were killed and injured as a result of shelling which nearly destroyed the central part of Lugansk on Tuesday night. No numbers are given in a message on the city council’s website, which cites reports of the city’s residents. It calls the situation in the town critical, as only the most essential products are on sale, and people face waiting in long lines to get bread. There has been no water or electricity, and mobile and landline phone lines have been down for 17 days. High temperatures may trigger infections in the city, due to a lack of fresh water and piles of garbage.
Ukrainian troops have shelled the center of Lugansk, apparently aiming for the city council building, rebels reported. They also denied a report of gunfights in the city center which was voiced on Tuesday morning by a Ukrainian police official.
Washington has recognized the need for Russian humanitarian aid in eastern Ukraine, according to comments by the US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
“We agree that the people of that region are in need of aid,” Harf said during a briefing on Monday, adding that US wants the contents of the aid convoys checked.
“We want to make sure this is actually aid, though. We understand there is an agreement that the aid will be inspected by Ukrainian border guards and customs officials before being transferred in batches to representatives of the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross].”