UK & World News

  • 19 August 2014, 9:27

Ukraine: 15 Bodies Found After Refugee Attack

Fifteen bodies have been recovered from the site of a rocket strike on a refugee convoy in eastern Ukraine, a military spokesman has said.

The convoy of buses and cars was evacuating civilians fleeing the rebel-held city Luhansk, which is close to the border with Russia. 

"By 7pm last night we retrieved 15 bodies. The search continued into the night and is continuing today," said the military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko.

Ukraine has accused pro-Russian rebels of killing dozens of civilians in Monday's attack.

The Kiev military said many of the victims, who included women and children, had been burned beyond recognition.

"The force of the blow on the convoy was so strong that people were burned alive in the vehicles - they weren't able to get themselves out," military spokesman Anatoly Proshin told Ukrainian news channel

The rebels have denied responsibility for the strike. At least one rebel leader denied an attack had occurred.

The rebel leader of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said: "Not a single convoy of refugees was shot at in the Luhansk region."

The convoy had been in an area of fierce fighting between the towns of Svitlivka and Khrashchuvate when it came under fire from rebel Grad and mortar launchers, according to a Ukrainian government spokesman.

The US condemned the attack, but said it was unable to confirm who was responsible.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was deeply disturbed by the "alarming" attack.

"He urges all sides to respect the rules governing the status of internally displaced persons and refugees and to allow safe passage to anyone attempting to leave areas of active military operations," said his spokesperson, St?ane Dujarric.

The road where the attack occurred is likely to be used by a convoy of Russian aid if Ukraine allows it to enter the country.

The International Red Cross - which will take responsibility for the aid convoy inside Ukraine - has demanded security guarantees from all sides, which have yet to be agreed on.

More than 2,100 people have been killed in four months of conflict inside Ukraine. The UN estimates more than 285,000 people have fled fighting in the east.

Fierce fighting continued around Luhansk over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Russia is said to be working on further retaliatory measures in the event Western nations implement fresh sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.