MARINKA, Ukraine — War came to this small farm town Friday night in the form of rockets that crashed into an apartment building near a rebel base, killing a man while he was watching television in his living room.
It was the first such attack in Marinka, southeast of Donetsk, the rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russia insurgency, and appeared to be part of a broader advance by Ukrainian forces in the east on Saturday. The military hit rebel positions in Horlivka, a crucial town to the north, and in Karlovka, a town with a strategic bridge.
But while the Ukrainian forces might have scored tactical victories, they were not winning any friends in Marinka, where the assumption was they were to blame.
The attack there left two civilians dead and four wounded according to the regional government, a grim sign of the imprecision and blunt force of the weapons being used by both sides in this war, which began this spring when pro-Russia rebels seized Ukraine’s southeastern edge and declared independence.
“Pigs,” said a man with gray hair who was wiping away tears. “People were sleeping in their beds.”
The source of the rocket attack was in dispute. A Ukrainian military officer, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said the Ukrainians did not have artillery positions close enough to hit Marinka.
“Our artillery just wouldn’t have reached there,” the officer said. “It’s as simple as that.”
And a military spokesman, Vladislav Seleznyov, said that Ukraine did not use its air power or heavy artillery against rebel targets that were close to civilians.
But the proximity of civilians did not stop the Ukrainians from shelling in and around Slovyansk the former rebel stronghold they took back this month after weeks of fighting. And rebels in Marinka showed a reporter exploded rocket casings and a gaping hole in the animal feed factory where they were based, as evidence that the rockets came from the Ukrainian military. Two rebels had been injured, they said.
Across the street from the factory was the apartment building that took the worst hit, No. 6 Zavodskaya Street, a gray brick building rimmed with pretty gardens of brown-eyed susans and marigolds. Two gaping holes were punched in a side wall. One of them opened into the living room that had collapsed in on itself.
Igor Nersisyan, a pensioner who lives on the second floor, said he had helped a neighbor dig her husband out from that rubble early Saturday morning. The man was dead when they reached him, the top of his skull sheared off in the blast.
“They are trying to destroy peaceful people,” said Nersisyan, who blamed the Ukrainian military.
Olga Gavrilovna, a first-floor resident, was putting thawing chicken into a plastic bag in her tiny kitchen; the floor was covered with the contents of its cupboards and the windows were blown out. She crunched over the glass, throwing leftover soup into the toilet, barely stopping to survey the damage.
“I just can’t think right now,” she said, with a blank look. “What is there to say?”
There were unconfirmed reports Saturday that Ukrainian warplanes also struck targets near Dzerzhinsk, a town north of here, killing hundreds of rebels. Both sides have made unsubstantiated claims about casualties in the past.
In Donetsk, leaders of the rebel movement gave their version of the recent events in Marinka, the farm town. Igor Strelkov, the Russian citizen who is the military commander of the rebel forces here, said the Ukrainian armed forces had fired artillery from the southwest in the night, striking a milk factory and the animal food factory. He claimed that more than 30 people had been killed, despite the lower figure provided by a local official.
Despite all of that, the rebels seemed to be in a light mood.
A wedding of a rebel commander took place Friday in a large ceremony at the central wedding hall filled with fighters holding their guns. And rebel forces announced a singles night in Lenin Square for local women to meet fighters.