Russian shelling kills 6 in Donbas, EU defends sanctions on Moscow

KYIV: Russian shelling of a town in eastern Ukraine on Monday (Jul 18) killed six people, Kyiv said, as EU ministers meeting in Brussels insisted the pressure of Western sanctions on Moscow was working.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meanwhile appointed an acting security chief, having announced the suspension of senior law enforcement officials late on Sunday.

Rescue workers were digging through debris and clearing rubble from a collapsed two-storey building in Toretsk in the industrial east that was struck by Russian artillery early Monday.

“I had my windows open. There was a huge explosion around 5am – stones and dust,” local resident Nadia told AFP journalists, still shaking.

Emergency services said five people had been pulled dead from the rubble, while a sixth, seriously wounded, had died in hospital.

Toretsk, a town of around 30,000 residents, lies 50 kilometres south of Kramatorsk, a key target for Russian forces, who invaded Ukraine in late February.

Russia’s troops have made gains in the eastern region of Donbas recently, capturing the sister cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.

On Monday, pro-Moscow rebels claimed their next target in Donbas – the town of Siversk – was under their control, an announcement that could not be independently verified.

GRAIN SUPPLY TALKS

In Kyiv, Zelenskyy appointed 39-year-old Vasyl Malyuk – first deputy head of the SBU security services since March – as acting chief after pulling Ivan Bakanov from the post.

Zelenskyy officially asked parliament to dismiss Bakanov later Monday, and the issue will be discussed at the next session for which a date has not yet been set.

Andriy Smirnov, a deputy head of the presidential administration told Ukrainian television that prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova and Bakanov had been suspended to prevent them “potentially influencing criminal proceedings against employees of the Security Service of Ukraine”.

The night before, Zelenskyy said security officials were investigating more than 650 cases of suspected treason and aiding and abetting Russia, including 60 cases of officials in Russian-occupied territories working against Ukraine.

In Brussels, the EU’s foreign policy chief warned Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports was threatening grain supplies to tens of thousands of people vulnerable to starvation and said it must end.

“It’s an issue of life and death for many human beings. And the question is that Russia has to de-block and allow Ukrainian grain to be exported,” Josep Borrell told reporters.