A Russian missile struck a building in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, killing at least 15 people as Moscow forces sought to consolidate their control over the Donbass region.
“During the rescue operation, 15 bodies were recovered from the scene and five people were pulled from the rubble” alive in the town of Chasiv Yar, the local emergency service said on Facebook.
“At least 30 other people are under the rubble” of the four-storey building after it was hit by a Russian Uragan missile, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said earlier on Telegram.
The building was partially destroyed in the strike, noted AFP correspondents on the spot where dozens of rescuers were digging through the rubble with a mechanical shovel.
Rescuers had so far been able to make contact with three people under the rubble, rescuers said.
After fighting long battles to seize the last areas of the neighboring Luhansk region, Russian troops are now turning their sights to Donetsk as they seek to take control of the entire Donbass region.
A resident of Chasiv Yar, who did not give her name, showed AFP journalists the wreckage of her apartment.
“Yesterday, 11 p.m. or 10 p.m., I was in the room, and when I left, everything started to rumble and crack…”, she says.
“The only thing that saved me was when I ran here, because immediately afterwards it all fell apart.”
Another woman who had ventured inside to see what she could salvage from her apartment retrieved a bluebird, still perched in its cage.
Looking down from her balcony, where her pet had escaped the explosion, she lifted the cage with a brief triumphant gesture.
Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had condemned what he called the deliberate bombing of civilian targets by Russia.
The Donetsk region was under persistent shelling, while Russian ground attacks were all but halted, the Ukrainian army general staff said on Sunday.
Ukrainian forces struck a Russian base in the occupied southern region of Kherson, they added, without giving further details.
On Saturday, three people were killed and 23 injured by shelling in Donetsk, Governor Kyrylenko said.
Strikes were also reported in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the northeast, where an “educational institution” and a house were hit, resulting in one person being injured, according to regional governor Oleg Sinegubov.
Zelensky condemned the widespread Russian bombardment in a speech on Saturday evening.
“In a single day, Russia hit Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Kryvyi Rih, communities in the Zaporizhzhia region,” Zelensky said.
The Russian strikes “absolutely deliberately” and “willingly” targeted the residential sector, hitting “ordinary houses, civilian property, people”, he said.
“Such terrorist actions can only really be stopped with modern and powerful weapons,” Zelensky added, thanking the United States for its latest military aid program.
Washington signed a $400 million package, including four additional high-mobility artillery rocket systems to add to the eight already in place and high-precision artillery munitions that had not previously been sent to Ukraine.
“This is a new development in our support for Ukraine in this battle in Donbass,” a senior defense official quoted by the US Department of Defense said.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russia’s restriction on Ukrainian grain exports may have contributed to unrest in Sri Lanka sparked by severe food and fuel shortages.
“We see the impact of this Russian aggression happening everywhere,” Blinken told reporters in Bangkok.
Renewing a request he has repeatedly made, Blinken called on Russia to let around 20 million tonnes of grain leave Ukraine, which Moscow invaded in February.
Russian officials in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv meanwhile announced the start of the harvest “in the liberated territories of the region”, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Sunday.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of having stolen its wheat harvest in the occupied eastern regions, to sell it illegally on the international market.
Russia continued its crackdown on media coverage critical of its conduct in the war, blocking the website of the German daily Die Welt on Sunday, the latest in a growing list.
Since the beginning of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, the German newspaper publishes content in Russian.
Canada agreed on Saturday to deliver the turbines needed to maintain the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany, despite sanctions in place against Russia and appeals from Ukraine.
The turbines were undergoing maintenance at a Canadian site owned by German industrial giant Siemens, and Gazprom blamed their absence for cuts in deliveries through the pipeline, raising fears of a gas shortage in Germany.
Canada also announced on Saturday its intention to extend economic sanctions against Russia to industrial manufacturing.