Ukraine: Rockets strike mayor’s office in separatist Donetsk

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The mayor’s office in a key city in eastern Ukraine, controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists, was hit by missiles on Sunday morning, Russian state agencies reported. There were no direct reports of casualties.

According to RIA Novosti, the municipal building in Donetsk has been seriously damaged by the attack, which the local separatist authorities attribute to Ukraine.

Photos circulating on social media showed plumes of smoke swirling around the building, rows of blown-out windows and a partially collapsed ceiling. RIA Novosti and local media also reported that three cars parked nearby had burned out as a result of the strike.

Kiev did not immediately claim responsibility and did not comment on the attack.

Kremlin-backed separatist authorities have previously accused Ukraine of numerous attacks on infrastructure and residential targets in the occupied territories, often using US-supplied HIMARS long-range missiles, without providing corroborating information.

The attacks came a day after two men from a former Soviet republic shot at volunteer soldiers during target practice at a Russian military firing range near Ukraine, leaving 11 dead and 15 wounded before being killed themselves. The Russian Defense Ministry, which reported the killings, called the incident a terrorist attack.

The incidents come amid a hasty mobilization ordered by President Vladimir Putin to bolster Russian forces in Ukraine amid a series of battlefield setbacks following his February invasion. The call sparked protests and caused hundreds of thousands to flee Russia.

Also on Saturday, a Washington-based think tank accused Moscow of carrying out “massive, forced deportations of Ukrainians,” which it believes likely amounts to ethnic cleansing.

In its regular online update, the Institute for the Study of War referred to statements this week by Russian authorities that “several thousand” children from a Moscow-occupied southern region had been placed in rest homes and children’s camps in Russia amid a sustained Ukrainian counter-offensive. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin’s original comments were reported Friday by state agency RIA Novosti.

The Institute also said Russian authorities “may be involved in a wider campaign of ethnic cleansing by depopulating Ukrainian territory through deportations and repopulating Ukrainian cities with imported Russian citizens”, in violation of international humanitarian law.

Russian authorities have previously openly admitted to placing children from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, who they said were orphans, for adoption with Russian families, in possible violation of a key international treaty on the prevention of genocide.

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The 1948 Genocide Convention, ratified by more than 140 states, including Ukraine and Russia, includes “forcibly transferring children from the target group to another group” in the definition of genocide.

Elsewhere on Sunday morning, the Ukrainian army accused pro-Kremlin fighters of evicting civilians in occupied territories to house officers in their homes, an act it also described as a violation of international humanitarian law.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its regular Facebook update that the evictions took place in the Russian-occupied city of Rubizhne, in the eastern region of Luhansk, where Kiev has launched a counter-offensive. She has provided no supporting evidence for her claim.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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