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Kharkiv Blast Injures 14 As Fighting Rages In Donetsk

A priest stands in front of a hospital destroyed after shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern city of Donetsk on January 19.
A priest stands in front of a hospital destroyed after shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern city of Donetsk on January 19.

An explosion near a court house in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has left 14 people wounded, four of them seriously.

Markiyan Lubkivsky, an adviser for the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), said on his Facebook page the incident on January 19 was being treated as a "terrorist act."

Kharkiv is a large city in eastern Ukraine, but far away from the conflict zone in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions further southeast.

However, in recent weeks there have been dozens of small bombings across the country, with the epicenters being Kharkiv, Odesa, Mariupol, and Kyiv.

Kharkiv, Odesa, and Mariupol seem to be in the crosshairs because they are geographically close to areas controlled by the pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and have significant ethnic Russian populations.

Authorities and most Ukrainians are convinced that the attacks are directly linked to Russia.

The blast in Kharkiv comes as Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatist fighters are battling for the control of the bitterly contested Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military claims its troops have retaken almost all the areas of the ruined airport lost to separatists in recent weeks.

But a separatist leader, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said that "all the Ukrainian Army's attempts to take the airport...have failed."

Artillery fire was reported in several areas of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions and a hospital in the city of Donetsk was reportedly hit.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterated he was ready for fresh peace talks, but that Russia would first have to fulfill the agreements to end the separatist conflict signed in Minsk in September 2014.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers ruled out any easing of the sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said on January 19 that the fighting around Donetsk airport showed "this is no time to talk about the easing of sanctions."

Russia has shown "no political will, no movement on the ground, so no reason to change policy," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius said.

The United States and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia following Russia's annexation of Crimea last March.

The West also accuses Russia of sending troops and weapons into eastern Ukraine to support the separatists, which Moscow denies.

The EU also pledged to respond to a perceived Russian propaganda campaign, after the issue was raised in a recent letter signed by the foreign ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, and Britain.

Mogherini said the EU will work on "concrete steps to be implemented in the coming weeks," adding, however, that the bloc would not engage in counterpropaganda.

Linkevicius told RFE/RL that there was "wide support" among his EU counterparts for the need to address Russian propaganda.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a statement on January 19 that the escalation in hostilities in eastern Ukraine since January 18 had resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians, including children, and put civilian lives in great danger.

London-based Amnesty International said pro-Russian separatists used densely populated areas for launching military operations while the Ukrainian troops returned heavy fire into those areas.

Amnesty said rebels fired rockets from residential areas in Donetsk and Horlivka. Artillery fire was returned by Ukrainian troops, killing at least two civilians in Horlivka on January 18.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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