Ukraine demands EU action on Russia as death toll mounts

Rebels reject Kiev claim of Russian involvement in latest fatal bombing

Rescue workers remove debris at a collapsed apartment after an airstrike in Snizhne, 100kms east  of Donetsk yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Rescue workers remove debris at a collapsed apartment after an airstrike in Snizhne, 100kms east of Donetsk yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky


European Union leaders meeting today are under pressure to impose tougher sanctions on Russia, after Ukraine again suggested Moscow was to blame for a deadly attack on its territory. A day after Ukrainian officials accused Russia of firing a missile that brought down a military transport plane near the countries’ border, Kiev hinted strongly at Moscow’s involvement in an air strike on an apartment block that killed 11 people.

“Today at 7am an unknown plane carried out a bombing attack on Snizhne. The flight can be described only as a cynical provocation,” said a spokesman for Ukraine’s national defence and security council.

Residents of Snizhne blamed the Ukrainian air force for the attack, as did separatist rebels who control much of Donetsk and neighbouring Luhansk provinces and want them to join Russia.

“Many local citizens saw the plane that dropped the bomb – it had Ukrainian markings,” said a militant commander in Snizhne who gave his name as Sergei.

“Why Ukraine would bomb its own territory is harder for me to say,” he added.

Kiev insisted, however, that none of its military planes had been in the area at the time.

As well as blaming Russia for the air attacks, Ukrainian officials have accused the separatists of firing artillery shells that have killed more than 20 civilians in recent days in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. The rebels deny involvement.

Kiev accuses Russia of continuing to send fighters and high-tech weapons over the border into Ukraine in support of the militants, and called on the EU to take a tough stand against the Kremlin when leaders meet in Brussels today.

“Sending across the border modern arms that are part of the weaponry of the Russian army cannot be considered a constructive contribution to de-escalating the situation in Ukraine,” said Kiev’s envoy to the EU, Konstantin Yeliseyev.

“This is the moment of truth for the EU. Showing solidarity with Ukraine would be a suitable and logical step. The member states of the EU should put international law, shared democratic values and common sense above their business and energy interests.”

Ukraine is deeply disappointed by the EU’s failure to deliver on a promise to impose tougher sanctions on Russia if it continued to stoke unrest in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Several member states appear unwilling to jeopardise major contracts, lucrative business links and gas supplies by extending narrow sanctions on individual businessmen and politicians to areas of the Russian economy.

A number of EU ambassadors who attended a closed- door meeting at the White House on Monday said the US was pressing for tougher measures and could act alone against Moscow if the EU baulked at taking co-ordinated action today.

Stefan Fuele, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, said “the heads of state and government will again assess the situation on the ground and, should it be required, adopt necessary decisions”.