Rockets rain death far from Ukraine frontline

2015-02-10 21:20
(Volodymyr Shuvayev, AFP)

(Volodymyr Shuvayev, AFP)

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Kramatorsk - The elderly woman kneels and weeps as she recognises one of those killed when a hail of rebel rockets fell on Ukraine's regional centre Kramatorsk, another innocent victim fallen far from the front.

"The shelling is with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's compliments, who else could have done this?" shouted a man who declined to give his name, blaming the 10-month conflict's alleged mastermind - allegations Russia denies.

Clusters of onlookers gather where the rockets fell, some of them unexploded and protruding from the ground they hit.

While residents mourn the dead, others photograph the missiles with their mobile phones and tablets, scarcely able to believe the rain of death that passed over them.

Since being recaptured by Ukrainian forces in July, Kramatorsk has remained largely unaffected by the fighting in a conflict that has killed at least 5 400 people.

The Kiev-loyal regional administration has shifted here from rebel bastion Donetsk and the local aerodrome houses the headquarters of Ukraine's military operation in the east.

That appeared to be the main target of the rocket attack but missiles also hit flats, streets and parks in the city, killing eight civilians and wounding 63 more, officials said.

'Happened so quickly'

"A missile fell in our factory grounds but it didn't explode," said Volodymyr Zhulyi, head of marketing at the plant.

"We didn't even manage to make it down into the bomb shelter, it all happened so quickly. Now people are just wandering around in shock and trying to work out what happened."

Officials initially said the rockets were the hi-tech Tornado model, with a greater range than most of the weapons used in the bitter 10-month conflict, but later said they were Soviet-era Smerch missiles, cruder but just as deadly.

The closest rebel position to Kramatorsk is believed to be Gorlivka, around 45km to the southeast.

Residents and passers-by find blankets or clothes to cover the dead before emergency services arrive to take them away.

People carrying bags of groceries walk past a man's dead body, his own shopping spilled around where he was struck down.

"Who shoots civilians?" said angry resident Yuriy. "I don't understand how this Putin could be called human at all. We mourn the children and everyone else."

The facade of an apartment block was shredded by a rocket blast, leaving curtains flapping in the cold wind.

Yet another unexploded rocket protrudes from the soil of a childen's playground, just metres away from the slides. A blast crumpled a car's bonnet as if it were made from paper.

Nearby, a young man poses for a photograph with his hand on the fins of an unexploded rocket, its nose buried deep in the frozen ground.

"Look at what Putin does to us, the bandit," said a woman. "He kills both kids and adults."

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine

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