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Ukraine accused of war crimes and deliberate targeting of journalists in Donetsk

UKRAINE has been accused of war crimes after a hotel housing international journalists in the eastern city of Donetsk was shelled for an eighth consecutive day today.

A Donetsk maternity hospital was also reportedly struck in a missile attack this morning with at least 10 people injured.

“They kill children, women, old people, destroy infrastructure and houses,” a separatist official said, accusing them of not fighting the army, but the civilian population of Donbass. 

Ukraine and Russia have both been accused of indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, with the United Nations estimating that thousands have died from Russian bombardment since it invaded its neighbour in February.

Media workers were forced to move after the shelling of the Donbass Palace Hotel where a large number had been staying as they report from the ground. 

Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett only escaped injury as she went to the bathroom moments before the missile struck. 

“If I had been here I’d have probably been shredded with glass,” she said, as the reception area she had been sitting in was seriously damaged. 

“I would not put it past them to target this hotel intentionally,” she continued, adding: “By targeting journalists, Ukraine can keep people from documenting its war crimes.”

Ms Bartlett, who has been placed on the notorious Myrotvorets “kill list” has been reporting from the ground on Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions known as petal mines, in civilian areas. 

Rights groups have documented Russia’s use of cluster munitions in multiple Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv, where they are blamed for killing and maiming hundreds. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has signed the international ban on such weapons.

The missiles hit on Thursday morning, also damaging a nearby theatre where the funeral service of military commander Lieutenant Colonel Olga “Korsa” Kachura was set to take place. 

There were further strikes against the hotel in Donetsk city centre later the same afternoon. 

The shelling took place just days after former Tory MP Louise Mensch was accused of “incitement to murder” as she appeared to encourage Ukraine’s special operations forces to conduct a hit on Ms Bartlett. 

Twitter has refused to remove the offending statement insisting it does not violate its policies but has instead placed restrictions on the accounts of journalists and others highlighting it. 

Deliberately targeting journalists is a war crime under international law with the Geneva Convention clear those working in war zones must be treated as civilians and protected as such. 

Russia’s bombing of a TV tower in Kiev in March, killing five, saw it accused of similarly targeting journalists.

Kiev has reacted angrily to an Amnesty International report accusing it of placing military hardware and soldiers in schools and hospitals. 

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said the Amnesty report had justified terrorism and accused the rights group of “victim blaming.”

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