Ukraine Military Assaults Cities, Hospitals: Journalists Detained, Killed
June 11, 2014
RT News & The Air Force Times
Death and destruction is reported in eastern Ukraine as Kiev's artillery resumed shelling the rebellious city of Slavyansk. Locals tell RT they have been without running water and power for days, and that hope is fading. In recent attacks, shells broke just near the central square. They hit residential houses, a furniture factory, a cafe and communications post. Many people were attending the Pentecost Mass in the nearby church. Four people were killed as a result of the shelling, a small girl among them.
Slavyansk under Fire, Without Water and Power as Kiev Troops Resume Shelling
Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on Kiev's military op in E.Ukraine
(June 8, 2014) -- Death and destruction is reported in eastern Ukraine as Kiev's artillery has resumed shelling the rebellious city of Slavyansk. Locals tell RT they have been without running water and power for days, and that hope is fading.
"The shells broke just near the central square. They hit residential houses, a furniture factory, a cafe and communications post," an unnamed representative of the local city council told Itar-Tass. "There are victims among the civilians and some people received shrapnel wounds."
"At this time there were many people in the center because of the Pentecost Mass in the nearby church has just ended," the source added.
Four people were killed in the result of the shelling, a small girl among them. Seven people were taken to hospital with injuries, RT's correspondent Andrey Krasnoschyokov reports from the scene.
A little girl, thought to be 4 years old, is among the dead. According to Krasnoschyokov, she died in a fire at a local leisure center.
"A shell felt nearby and set the building on fire. It is not clear if the girl was inside or outside. I arrived at the scene when firefighters were putting out the fire and one of the self-defense told me he carried out the body of this girl. He said she was four, but this could be his assumption," Krasnoschyokov said.
Kiev's artillery also has hit a gas pipe in the city, but there was no explosion threat, the city council told RIA Novosti. Another shell struck a petrol station outside Slavyansk, and a blast and fire followed.
The City Survives Without
Tap Water, Electricity and Communications
Slavyansk residents say their spirits are getting lower, as the city is completely surrounded by Kiev's armed forces and there is constant shooting and shelling while evacuation is hindered.
"Slavyansk has been attacked by massive shelling overnight," a local resident told RT, adding that the shelling never stops.
As the man was speaking to RT in the morning, he saw massive columns of smoke coming from the city outskirts. The sounds of shelling were heard distinctly over the phone.
The city is preparing to survive without drinking water and electricity.
"Residents are living a third day without water, some people even the fifth. . . Half [of the city population] doesn't have electricity," the man said.
As shops ran out of drinking water supplies too, Twitter images showed that residents had started scooping the remaining water out of fountains.
According to RT's witness, those water and electricity lines that have been broken are located in the "war zones," where most of the fighting takes place, that's why it is almost impossible to repair them.
"There is an impression that [Kiev forces] are striking in the vicinity of high-voltage lines to disrupt them and leave the city without water and electricity," he added.
'Slavyansk is a total nightmare'
Slavyansk residents are leaving the besieged city with shells whistling above their heads, local driver Vladimir, who evacuates at least 10 residents a day, told RT.
"This is a total nightmare what is happening in Slavyansk. They [Kiev troops] only let women and children leave the city -- they are forced to walk through the checkpoints," Vladimir says. "Men are not allowed to leave or enter the city."
Vladimir, who literally drives though never-ending gunfire, says Slavyansk residents are mostly seeking refuge in Crimea or in nearby regions.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's National Guard has begun artillery fire in the outskirts of Slavyansk, according to a video released on YouTube. The footage shows a huge amount of smoke coming from the hill on the outskirts.
Kiev authorities have recently intensified what Kiev calls an "anti-terrorist" operation with a massive artillery attack on Slavyansk. The plan was to conduct a "clean-up" of Donetsk and Lugansk regions ahead of the presidential inauguration held on June 7.
'Blindfolded, Brought to Knees':
Russian Zvezda TV Crew Abducted near Slavyansk
(June 7, 2014) -- Ukraine's National Guard have detained two journalists from Russian TV channel Zvezda at a military roadblock near the city of Slavyansk. According to their driver, during a routine check they were blindfolded and taken to an undisclosed location.
Video operator Andrey Sushenkov and sound engineer Anton Malyshev have been unreachable since 14:30 GMT Friday afternoon, Zvezda TV announced on its website.The crew was heading from Donetsk to Slavyansk, the scene of intense fighting between the pro-Kiev forces and self-defense militia.
“At the approaches to Slavyansk we got in touch by phone. They said National Guards were searching them and they would call back as soon as the search is over. Since then their numbers are unobtainable,” said Zvezda correspondent Evgeniy Davydov, who was in touch with the crew during their stay in Ukraine.
Their driver, Ruslan Zaslavsky, a local citizen of Slavyansk, was also briefly detained, but released several hours later.
The National Guards have checked the numbers of entry stamps in journalists' passports with someone they contacted on the radio, before a man in plain military uniform -- without a helmet or body armor -- took the guys away, Zaslavsky said.
“I saw them putting balaclavas on the guys' heads, but the wrong way about, so that they could not see anything,” Zaslavsky told Zvezda after his release. “They were forced on their knees.“
The TV crew must have been taken to nearby Kharkov or Izyum, Zaslavsky suggested, as the roadblock was located about 5 kilometers from Slavyansk in the ”middle of nowhere“ -- between two fields -- and the National Guard did not even have a tent there.
“The channel's directors call on the newly elected president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko to release Andrey Sushenkov, Anton Malyshev,” the head of Zvezda holding Aleksey Pimanov wrote in a statement, asking the international journalist community for support in securing the release of their colleagues.
This is not the first time Russian journalists working in Ukraine disappear after encountering the National Guard.
On May 18, two Russian journalists working for LifeNews TV channel -- reporter Oleg Sidyakin and cameraman Marat Saichenko -- were captured by Kiev forces near the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Initially accused of “aiding the terrorist groups,” they were released a week later -- without any charges pressed or evidence of their crimes provided -- after a wave of outrage by rights groups and Russian politicians and media.
An RT journalist reporting from Ukraine, Graham Phillips, was also detained after a search by the National Guard last month and questioned by various Kiev security forces for over 36 hours before being released.
The area around Slavyansk is gripped by increased violence after Kiev intensified what it calls an 'anti-terrorist' operation against anti-government activists and militia who have taken control of the eastern regions of the country as a mark of protest against the Kiev authorities.
Confirmed: Italian journalist killed in Eastern Ukraine
(May 26, 2014) -- An Italian journalist has been killed near the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk during a mortar attack, the Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed. The journalist was covering the ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections.
The body of the reporter has been preliminary identified as 30-year-old photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli. The Italian citizen was reportedly hit along with his interpreter, Andrey Mironov, by mortar fire on Saturday near the village of Andreevka, a couple of kilometers from Slavyansk.
Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini appealed to Ukraine's authorities to clarify the circumstances that led to Rocchelli's death in the Donetsk Region.
"We ask to clarify the circumstances of the attack that killed an Italian citizen as soon as possible," she said in a statement. Mogherini intends to personally contact her Ukrainian counterpart Andrey Deshchytsya about the issue.
Rocchelli's body is now awaiting official identification from his family, who are due to arrive in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Sunday.
French journalist William Roguelon, who was reportedly with Rocchelli at the time of the attack, told Italian press how their vehicle was bombarded by mortar fire.
"Before that we heard Kalashnikov shots,” Roguelon was quoted by the Italian tgcom24. “Then the mortar shells rained down all around," he said, claiming to have heard up to 60 explosions as they tried to hide in the “middle of a ditch."
He told Russian news channel Vesti that when he came to after the explosions he saw the bodies of Rocchelli and his interpreter on the ground not moving. Roguelon was injured in the assault and was taken to a local hospital where he received treatment and was well enough to leave the facility on his own.
Local residents who found the bodies told RT's video agency Ruptly that they found the remains of mortars at the scene of the attack.
Rocchelli was a professional photographer who had worked with a number of Italian photography agencies as well as Wall Street Journal, ForeignPolicy and Novaya Gazeta, to name but a few.
The area around Slavyansk has been gripped by violence in the run up to Sunday's Ukrainian presidential elections. The coup-appointed government in Kiev has deployed troops in the east of Ukraine as part of an 'anti-terrorist' operation to quell anti-Kiev activists who have taken control of government buildings as a mark of protest against the Kiev authorities.
A number of journalists have already fallen prey to the violence in eastern Ukraine. On Sunday, Russian journalists Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko were released after several days of detention by the Ukrainian Army.
The men told Russian press that they had been kept in a dug-out cell with their legs and hands tied and had had their heads covered by sacks. The Ukrainian authorities said that the journalists were being investigated on charges of terrorism, and denied a special observer mission access to them.
The crackdown of journalists in Ukraine has been condemned by a number of rights groups. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Kiev to “stop equating conflict reporting with terrorism.”
In addition the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OCSE) said journalists in Ukraine are “continually been denied access to events and information, often by force” and warned that consequences will be “too grave to even imagine.”
Journalists are “being directly targeted in some cases," Mark Sleboda, Moscow State University's international relations expert, told RT.
“This is to be expected when you are indiscriminately shelling civilian areas with artillery, with mortars…that of course is a war crime,” he said. “Russian journalists have been barred from entering the Ukraine despite protests of the OSCE and other organizations. The putsch regime is regarding all journalists who might provide critical information about it as enemies.”
He added that the most alarming is the reaction of Western journalists to the detention and barring of entry of their professional colleagues from Russia.
“They have been absolutely silent,” he said.
'Regrettable incident, terrorist resistance to blame' -- Kiev
The Russian Foreign Minister and his Italian counterpart Federica Mogherini have discussed and shared condolences of the death of the Italian journalist alongside his Russian colleague near Slavyanks on Saturday.
“Lavrov and Mogherini have called for an immediate end to violence in the south-east of Ukraine and called for a prompt halt in the 'antiterrorist operation' launched by the Kiev authorities there,” the FM statement reads.
The coup-appointed Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrey Deschytsia also spoke on the subject with his Italian counterpart, promising to conduct a probe into the death of the two journalists.
“The Ukrainian foreign minister assured his Italian counterpart that the best experts will be involved in the inquiry, while Ukrainian government agencies will keep the Italian consular services updated about the investigation,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Ukrainian side however was quick to blame the self-defense forces for the incident despite witness account of the French journalist William Roguelon, who was in the car at the time of the armed assault and blamed it on Ukrainian forces.
“This regrettable incident testifies to further resistance on the side of the terrorist groups to the activity of journalists in the territory of Ukraine,” Deschytsia said.
Meanwhile, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said she was “deeply saddened” about Rocchelli and Mironov's deaths as she expressed condolences to their families and colleagues.
“These deaths are horrid reminders that not enough is being done to protect journalists who risk their lives reporting from conflict zones in Ukraine,” Mijatović said. “I have raised my concern about the appalling situation regarding journalists' safety in the country on numerous occasions, but it has continued to deteriorate," Mijatović said. “I call on the authorities to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the circumstances of this deadly attack and to hold those responsible accountable.”
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