Shelling brings terror to leafy suburbs of besieged Donetsk

Anna Malpas

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - After shelling ended overnight in a suburb of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Konstantin Luchkin emerged from his cellar to find his beehives smashed, the facade of his house blown off and his car burnt and puckered with shrapnel holes.

"Call that a targeted strike?" asked the coal miner Saturday, holding his four-year-old daughter Masha as she played on a tablet computer.

AFP journalists heard the rumble of shelling roll across the besieged rebel-held city from around 2:00 to 5:00 am as a fierce battle raged between the separatist insurgents and government forces.

Mortar bombardments hit a number of streets in northern Donetsk and the nearby city of Makiyivka around 2:00 am.

The artillery fire tore off roofs, set several homes alight, and left deep craters in the ground.

"This was a mass strike," Luchkin said.

His house, with its grapevines and beehives in the garden, had one north-facing facade ripped off. The garage roof lay in the street, his car burnt out, its charred body peppered with shrapnel.

"I could still live here, but what's the use?" he said. "How can you hide from this shrapnel?"

Residents of this semi-rural suburb in the shadow of the slagheap of a local mine blamed the Ukrainian government for the attack.

"They hide behind honest people and make them fight each other," Luchkin said of the pro-Western authorities in Kiev, expressing his frustration at the spiralling conflict.

"Let them come here and rebuild these houses."

- 'Left on the street' -

The area did, however, contain one obvious target: a rebel special forces camp a few hundred metres (yards) away in a former interior ministry base.

It is guarded by uniformed fighters with Kalashnikovs at the ready and contains several armoured vehicles.

Rebels at the base, which stands next to a cemetery, said it was not hit.

"We saw a bright glow here and there," said one insurgent, wearing a blue-and-white striped vest and smoking a cigarette, pointing towards residential areas.

One local man, 37-year-old Ruslan, said the area was lit up by flares before the shelling.

The trail of damage from the shelling snakes across a dozen houses.

"We are left on the street," said another resident, Lyudmila, crying as she surveyed her damaged home, collapsed garage roof and the deep crater in her raspberry bushes.

An 85-year-old couple, both paralysed, said they lay in bed unable to move as a shell smashed through their brick gateposts blowing in their windows.

"We were already asleep at that time, there was an explosion... they started firing as I and the old lady were lying there," said Stepan Fyodorovich, a retired miner, as his wife sat in a wheelchair and their budgie squawked in a cage during a power cut.

"They fired probably about 20 times and then went away. I don't know anything more about why they wanted to bomb us. We're not to blame."