Ukraine and Russia swap charges of attacks on civilians
A man talks on a phone as smoke rises in the air after shelling in Odessa, Ukraine, Saturday, July 16, 2022 | AP via Morning Star

Ukrainian forces were accused today of firing banned incendiary weapons at civilian areas after Donetsk was pummeled overnight, leaving at least one civilian dead. Both Russia and Ukraine, however, say they will go ahead with a deal worked out by Turkey, the UN, and Ukrainian and Russian negotiators to ship Ukrainian and Russian grain and Russian fertilizer out to the entire world.

Ukrainian and Russian grain shipments have been held up because of Russian warships patrolling the Black Sea and because Ukraine has mined the port areas and sea routes used for years by both Ukraine itself and Russia. Russian shipments of grain and fertilizer have also been blocked because of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe. Russia’s inability to ship out fertilizer is also a major contributor to the looming threats of famine around the world. It was in the interest of both countries then to come to an agreement despite skepticism and statements coming from the U.S. that have predicted the agreement will collapse. The U.S. has continually put the damper on any negotiations or peace talks between the warring parties.

In any case, soon after the signing of the deal, missiles rained down on Russian controlled areas of Donetsk.

“Shortly before midnight, the armed forces of Ukraine fired rockets with incendiary shells from the Grad multiple-launch rocket systems at the Voroshilovsky and Kalininsky districts of Donetsk,” local officials claimed to both the Russian and Western press.

“A total of 15 shells and 10 mines were fired.”

Video footage circulating online showed what initial reports indicated was white phosphorus being used in an attack on Russian-controlled residential areas of Donetsk.

It has subsequently been suggested that it may have in fact been thermite, mixtures of which can be used to make incendiary bombs.

Using such substances against civilian populations is banned under international law. Neither Ukrainian nor Russian forces have made any official comment on the allegations.

Kiev has accused Russia of using white phosphorus against its troops on several occasions, most recently after Moscow withdrew its forces from Snake Island at the beginning of the month.

The Ukrainian government also claimed that white phosphorus was used by Russian forces attacking the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol before the Azov Batallion defenders surrendered in May.

One resident was killed and three were injured, including a teenager, as a result of the overnight shelling in Donetsk, separatist forces said.

Media coverage of the assault on the Donbass region has been limited, but more than 700 civilians have been killed there by Ukrainian shelling, according to local sources and reporters on the ground.

On Saturday, a protest took place outside the Ukrainian embassy in Ireland, with placards reading: “Ukraine, stop shelling Donetsk, leave Donbass alone.”

“Let them see that we are for Donbass with all our hearts and we are not afraid to express our opinion,” the small group of demonstrators told the press in Ireland.

Ukrainian President Volodomoyr Zelensky has condemned Russia for bombing Odessa hours after signing an agreement to facilitate the export of grain from the Black Sea port.

He accused Moscow of “barbarism” and said the attack was evidence that President Vladimir Putin’s government could not be trusted to abide by the deal signed in Istanbul on Friday.

Russia, however, insisted that it had struck a Ukrainian military vessel and a number of U.S.-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles and said the agreement did not include areas of ports not being used to ship out grain.