At least 15 killed after Russian rockets hit apartment building in Donetsk, local officials say

At least 15 people were killed and two dozen more are feared trapped after Russian Uragan rockets hit a five-storey apartment block in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, local officials said on Sunday as rescuers picked through the rubble.

Ukraine also reported clashes with Russian troops on fronts in the east and south, while Moscow said its forces struck Ukrainian army hangars storing U.S.-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery, in Donetsk.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, said the strike on the apartment building took place on Saturday evening in the town of Chasiv Yar. The regional emergency service said the death toll stood at 15 on Sunday afternoon, but 24 more people could still be under the rubble.

“We ran to the basement, there were three hits, the first somewhere in the kitchen,” said a local resident who gave her name as Ludmila, speaking as rescuers removed a body in a white sheet and cleared rubble using a crane as well as their hands.

A rescue worker sifts through rubble at the scene after rockets hit an apartment block in the town of Chasiv Yar on Saturday evening. (Nariman El-Mofty/The Associated Press)

“The second [strike], I do not even remember, there was lightning. We ran toward the second entrance and then straight into the basement. We sat there all night until this morning.”

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a Telegram post that the strike was “another terrorist attack,” and that Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism as a result.

Russia denies deliberately attacking civilians.

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces comprise the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region. Russia wants to wrest control of the Donbas on behalf of the separatists whom it supports.

Moscow says ejecting the Ukrainian military out of the region is central to what it calls its “special military operation” to ensure its own security, an offensive that has lasted for more than four months and which the West calls an unprovoked war.

Russia says U.S.-made howitzers targeted

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces on Saturday had destroyed two hangars near the Donetsk town of Kostyantynivka, just southwest of Chasiv Yar. The ministry said the hangars were holding the U.S.-made M777 howitzers, which it said had been used to shell residential areas of Donetsk.

There was no immediate response from Ukraine on the claim.

Russian forces attacked Ukrainian positions near the town of Sloviansk in Donetsk but were forced to withdraw, Ukraine’s military said. It also said Russian forces had launched a cruise missile attack on the northeastern city of Kharkiv from their side of the border. It gave no details of damage or casualties.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been targeted throughout the war, including several times in the past week.

A teacher is seen on Sunday removing debris from a school that was heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike last week in the centre of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. (Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images)

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces were gathering in the area of the village of Bilohorivka, about 50 kilometres east of Sloviansk.

“The enemy is … shelling the surrounding settlements, carrying out airstrikes, but it is still unable to quickly occupy the entire Luhansk region,” he said on Telegram.

Russia claimed control over all of Luhansk province last weekend.

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In Mykolaiv near the Black Sea, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych reported on Telegram that six Russian missiles were fired at his city on Saturday but caused no casualties.

“On this day alone, Russia hit Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih, villages in the Zaporizhzhia region,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “It hit residential areas, absolutely consciously and on purpose.”

Reuters could not independently verify battlefield accounts.

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Ukrainian military spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw.

In the south, Ukrainian forces fired missiles and artillery at Russian positions including ammunition depots in the Chornobaivka area, Ukraine’s military command said.

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