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Police examine the body of a victim killed by the recent shelling of a residential area in Mariupol in eastern Ukraine, Jan. 24, 2015.
Nikolai Ryabchenko / Reuters
Mariupol shelling kills 30 as Ukraine conflict intensifies
Kiev blames deadly attack in eastern Ukrainian port city on separatist rebels and Russian forces
January 24, 20158:37AM ETUpdated 4:25PM ET
At least 30 people were killed and 83 others injured in shelling in the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, Ukraine's interior ministry said, an attack Kiev blamed on separatist rebels and the Russian military.
Government-held Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, lies on a coastal route from the Russian border to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine last March.
Mariupol's city council said rockets fired by rebels from long-range Grad missile systems struck a multistory building and caused fires to break out.
Oleksander Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine's national defense council, described the incident in an online statement as "another bloody crime against humanity committed by the Russian military and the bands of terrorists under their complete control."
The attack started in the early morning, 76-year-old pensioner Leonid Vasilenko, who lives in the eastern suburbs of Mariupol, said by telephone.
"The walls were shaking, the window frames were shaking, paint started to crumble off the house. I hid in the basement. What else can you do? I took the dog and the cat. In the basement you could hear the earth tremble," he said.
Eduard Basirin, a rebel spokesman, told Al Jazeera that the separatists were not responsible for the attack.
Despite international calls for a cease-fire, rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko vowed on Friday that his forces would push on with a new offensive, as the U.N. said the conflict, which began in eastern Ukraine more than nine months ago, was now in its "most deadly period" since a peace deal was agreed to last September.
In recent days, Ukraine’s military has reported "high-intensity" rebel attacks on government positions.
"Illegal armed groups are trying to widen the boundaries of controlled territories and correct the demarcation line to their advantage," government spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing.
President Petro Poroshenko, pledging to protect Ukrainian territory, said he would convene an emergency meeting of his country's security council on Sunday.
Poroshenko said last week that Russia had 9,000 troops inside Ukraine and called on Moscow to withdraw them, blaming it for armed aggression. Moscow denies sending forces and weapons to eastern Ukraine, despite what the West says is irrefutable proof.
On Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed "criminal orders" by Ukrainian leaders for the surge in the conflict, which has killed over 5,000 people.
Ukraine says its troops are holding the line against the separatists after suffering a symbolic and morale-sapping setback last week when they withdrew from the main terminal at the airport in Donetsk, the biggest city in the east.