Hours after a new peace initiative for Ukraine began taking shape, mortar shells rained down Thursday on the center of the main rebel-held city in the east, killing at least 13 people at a bus stop.
The deaths in Donetsk sparked wrath and grief that was swiftly exploited by pro-Russian rebel leaders, who paraded captive Ukrainian troops through the city to be punched, kicked and insulted by enraged residents.
Diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany had met in Berlin a day ago to thrash out a tentative dividing line from which the warring sides would pull back their heavy weapons. That solution already looks doomed.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine is now fiercer than ever in some locations, NATO’s top commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, said Thursday in Brussels. He added that weapons systems seen now in the region have in the past heralded a fresh incursion by Russian troops.
The United Nations Security Council condemned the killings “in the strongest terms” and “underlined the need to conduct an objective investigation and bring perpetrators of this reprehensible act to justice.”
In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council also welcomed Wednesday’s new peace initiative and underlined the need to fully implement a September cease-fire agreement.
It is far from clear who fired Thursday’s deadly mortars and both sides accused the other.