Many casualties are being reported in the administration building of the city of Lugansk, eastern Ukraine, after a fighter jet attack. The assault was followed by heavy gunfire on the ground, causing panic among civilians.
At least five people have been killed in the attack, according to RIA Novosti. Many wounded are still trapped inside the administration headquarters, which caught on fire. About six ambulance vehicles have arrived at the site. The death toll may rise.
However, the self-defense forces at the moment report one fatality and 10 people sustaining injuries.
“Ukraine’s air force struck Lugansk downtown at 16.00 pm. Military aircraft made a targeted strike, deploying cluster bombs. The administration building is partially destroyed,” the government of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic said.
Large blood stains inside the HQ could be seen on live-streaming video from the area, with pieces of glass and stones also visible on the floor. The camera operator was choking with smoke. On the outside, many windows are shattered, shell fragments covering the nearby area and dark plumes of smoke are coming from the fourth floor.
Unexploded shells were found in the park in front of the building, warn the self-defense forces. Locals were urged to leave the area.
According to the live stream, the fighters jets are flying back and may be readying a new strike.
Still from Anna News Live Stream
“The fire has engulfed the third and fourth floors of the building, and the windows have been blown out. There are shards of glass everywhere. I saw paramedics carrying people out of the entrance,” a witness told RT.
Minutes earlier, heavy machine-gun shooting was reported in the center of Lugansk, as fierce fighting between the local self-defense squads and Kiev forces renewed after a brief truce.
The shooting reportedly sparked panic among visitors of a café, who rushed out searching for shelter.
Kiev sent its air force to Lugansk to support border guard units stationed in the area, said Vladislav Seleznyov, the spokesman for the military operation against the pro-autonomy protesters in eastern Ukraine. The fighter jets eliminated two opposition mortar detachments, he told a media briefing.
In the early hours of Monday, self-defense fighters attacked the Lugansk border unit's department.
“About a hundred armed men drove up towards the Lugansk border unit's department at around 00:30am and took positions along the perimeter. The first attack with the use of using machine guns and under-barrel grenade launchers began at about 04:00am, and lasted for about 40 minutes. The border guards successfully deterred the attack,” the Ukrainian State Border Service reported on its website. The second and third attacks were also successfully repelled, it said, adding that there were wounded among the border guards and several victims among the self-defense.
According to the State Border Service, “terrorists” kept pulling in forces to the border unit’s department, and by 7am there were “about 400” at the site.
The fighting continued for several hours before a short truce was reached in the early afternoon, which allowed for the wounded to be removed from the area. Violence renewed though only half-an hour later.
Talks between self-defense activists and the border guards’ command reached a deadlock, a spokesperson for the People’s Republic of Lugansk told Itar-Tass. The local authorities were seeking “a peaceful solution to the situation” and wanted the “servicemen living in the People’s Republic of Lugansk” to leave the border guards’ unit and return to their homes, he added.However, military officials rejected the proposal.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called Kiev’s ongoing military operation in southeastern Ukraine, and the use of the air force a “gross violation” of international law. The scale of the “punitive” operation is increasing, “People are being killed and that is certainly a gross violation of international humanitarian law,” Konstantin Dolgov, the Ministry’s commissioner for human rights told RIA Novosti.
Moscow has urged NATO to demand that Kiev immediately stop its military operation and fulfill the Geneva accords, as well as the OSCE roadmap of the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, Russia’s envoy to the alliance said.