DONETSK, Ukraine – An artillery barrage Thursday that was apparently meant to hit a rebel headquarters building here smashed a dental college instead, killing one patient. A grocery store and apartment buildings also were damaged.
The episode highlighted the high risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties as the Ukrainian army tries to defeat the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. In recent days, government forces have encircled Donetsk, a separatist stronghold, but have not yet tried to storm it with ground troops, opting instead to gradually tighten the siege.
By all appearances, the shells that struck the dental college came from government positions outside the city. They fell around 10 a.m. along a line running from the college, through a park, toward the rebel headquarters building in a central district of Donetsk.
The pediatric dental ward, empty at the time, took a direct hit. The shelling shattered dental chairs and cracked walls.
The dental college is in a wing of Central Clinical Hospital No. 1. Outside, Alexander Perikh sat groaning on a sidewalk, his head bandaged from recent dental surgery. He said he unplugged his intravenous tube and ran from the building when it was hit. “I don’t feel well at all,” he said.
A brick balcony was knocked from an apartment, and the facade of a grocery store was blown apart.
The last shell in the barrage fell about 300 yards short of a rebel-occupied police building that pro-Russian military commanders here use as a headquarters.
The artillery fire Thursday appeared to be the second attempt by the Ukrainian military to blow up the headquarters. Rockets rained on the area last Friday, killing a janitor who was working in a nearby courtyard.
It was not the first time Ukrainian artillery fire had struck a medical facility: A hospital building was hit in Slovyansk as government troops retook that city from the rebels.
Elsewhere in Donetsk, three civilians died in separate incidents of shelling overnight and five were wounded, the mayor’s office said Thursday. Government forces bombed Donetsk from the air for the first time Wednesday, leaving craters in a warehouse district and wounding two night watchmen.
New York Times