Rockets kill 29 as rebel offensive begins
Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, two schools, homes and shops yesterday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, killing at least 29 people, authorities said. Ukraine's top rebel leader announced that an offensive had begun on the strategically important port.
The attack came a day after the rebels rejected a peace deal and said they were going on a multi-prong offensive against the government in Kiev to vastly increase their territory. The rebel stance is upending European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which the United Nations said last Friday has killed nearly 5,100 people since April.
Mariupol, which lies on the Azov Sea, is the major city between mainland Russia and the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Heavy fighting in the region in the fall raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to take over the government-held city to establish a land link between Russia and Crimea.
Rebel forces have positions within 10 kilometres (six miles) from Mariupol's eastern outskirts.