Ukraine: Dozens of refugees fleeing in convoy killed by rocket fire

By Dustin M Braden - 18 Aug '14 18:35PM

The Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebel fighters are each blaming each other for a devastating rocket attack on a convoy of refugees as it tried to escape from the city of Luhansk, which has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.

Reuters reports that the Ukrainian military has laid the blame at the feet of pro-Russian separatists. Dozens, including women and children, are believed to have died when the convoy of buses bearing white flags was struck by rocket fire.

People are fleeing Luhansk because pro-Russian fighters are strongly contesting the city despite having lost control of the police station, their headquarters. The rebels claim that reinforcements are coming to bolster them with tanks and armored vehicles, which is why the exodus of Luhank's citizens is ongoing.

Both sides have accused the other of the attack, and said a Grad multiple rocket system was used. Grad missile batteries can be immobile or truck mounted. They are relatively imprecise compared to some other rocket based weapons systems such as cruise missiles.

Reuters reports that while one rebel spokesperson said that they did not have the weaponry to enable such an attack, another denied the attack even took place altogether.

The Ukrainian military claims there is video of the attack, which may help in the investigation of what really occurred.

International observers and aid groups have castigated both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian fighters for not taking enough precautions to protect innocents caught up in the crossfire.

The attack comes after the failure of talks held in Berlin to try and defuse tension in eastern Ukraine. Both the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine attended the meeting, in addition to their German and French counterparts.

A convoy of 280 aid trucks sent from Moscow is still stalled on the Russian border, and Russia wants a ceasefire to ensure that the aid can be distributed safely. The failure of peace talks and Ukraine's military gains make this prospect more unlikely by the day.

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