Ukraine’s military says dozens of people have been killed after a convoy carrying refugees from the eastern, rebel-held city of Luhansk was hit by pro-Russian separatists.
The rebels deny responsibility but Ukrainian officials say victims were burned alive as rocket fire hit their buses.
“Not far from Luhansk, on the road between Khryashchuvatye and Novosvitlivka, a column of civilians trying to escape was hit from multiple GRAD missile launchers handed to the bandits by the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s National Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a news conference in Kyiv.
“A lot of people died, including women and children,” he said.
A senior rebel leader denied his forces had the military capability to conduct such an strike, accusing the government of regularly attacking the area. Another rebel spokesman denied any civilian convoy had been struck, challenging the Kyiv authorities to produce evidence.
Western sanctions against Moscow have failed to stem what NATO says is a steady supply of military equipment and men sent from Russia to help the rebels. Russia denies sending support, saying the separatists have seized equipment from the Ukrainians.
With the rebels now apparently losing ground by the day to government forces, it is doubtful that Kyiv will agree to a ceasefire.
But that is what Russia wants to allow its convoy of humanitarian aid through. Some 280-trucks are stalled at the Ukrainian border as Kyiv insists on formalities so that the aid can be properly distributed by the Red Cross.