World, Europe

Ukraine prepares civilian evacuation of frontline town

Official says preparations underway to move 12,000 from town hit by heavy shelling

Ukraine prepares civilian evacuation of frontline town People wait at the Marjinka check-point after shelled by pro-Russian separatists in Marjinka village, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 17, 2016. ( Viktor Koshkin - Anadolu Agency )

KIEV, Ukraine

Authorities in Ukraine are planning the evacuation of 12,000 people from a town that has seen renewed fighting between forces loyal to Kiev and separatists, an official said Tuesday.

Avdiyivka, which lies to the north of the frontline near Donetsk, is without water and electricity as temperatures are due to drop to 0F (minus 18C).

Mykola Chechotkin, head of the Emergency Situations State Service, said nearly 12,000 could be moved to neighboring areas, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the service’s press office.

“Eighty buses, which can simultaneously evacuate up to 3,000 people, are prepared and are on standby for this,” he said. “At the same time, two suburban trains, which can evacuate up to 1,600 people at once, are planned to set running for the evacuation of people.”

Avdiyivka -- home to 35,000 people before the conflict erupted in 2014 -- is a key transport hub for Ukrainian forces and its coking and chemical plant supplies the country’s vital steel industry.

Three days of heavy shelling have seen several people killed, despite an attempt to renew a cease-fire last month.

Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Tuesday that three soldiers had been killed and 24 wounded by pro-Russian separatists over the previous 24 hours. He said “continuous” fighting had damaged houses and hospitals and injured civilians.

The ministry’s Intelligence Directorate said Tuesday that 10 separatists had been killed and 25 wounded.

Kiev accused Russia of disregarding commitments under the Minsk agreement to halt fighting in eastern Ukraine. “We demand the Russian Federation cease hostilities immediately and comply strictly with the cease-fire,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry added that more than 400,000 civilians in the region had no access to water, electricity or heating. “Given harsh weather conditions and the continuing shelling by the militants, the humanitarian situation in the area continues to deteriorate,” it said.

More than 9,700 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2014, according to the UN.

Russia blamed the fresh violence on Ukrainian “volunteer battalions” not controlled by Kiev. “It appears to be an attempt to draw attention away from the fragile situation by aggressive actions in the Donbass region,” the RT news website quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Tuesday.

Reporting by Ali Cura; Writing by Diyar Guldogan

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.