NATO’s chief defied mounting Russian belligerence Thursday with a pledge to provide assistance to Ukraine, which is battling to quash an insurgency being waged by pro-Russia rebels in the country’s east.
The show of support from Anders Fogh Rasmussen comes as government troops increasingly focus their push to claw back rebel-held territory on the stronghold of Donetsk. Ukraine appears to be ratcheting up the urgency of its onslaught against the backdrop of an alleged escalation of Russian troop presence on the border.
“In response to Russia’s aggression, NATO is working even more closely with Ukraine to reform its armed forces and defense institutions,” Rasmussen said during a visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
In a sign of sagging morale among rebel forces, separatist authorities issued a desperate plea for assistance Thursday, complaining in a statement that a “critical situation has developed with the militia’s food, uniform and ammunition supplies.”
In Donetsk, sustained shelling struck residential buildings and a hospital, killing at least four people and wounding 10 others, local officials said.
Mortar fire struck the Vishnevskiy Hospital on Thursday morning, killing one and wounding five others, Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovensky told The Associated Press.
“There was a sudden explosion,” witness Dr. Anna Kravtsova said. “A mortar round flew through the window.”
The shelling, which destroyed an array of equipment in the dentistry unit, also hit three nearby apartment buildings.