Russia pounds Donetsk, Luhansk; at least 21 killed

Regional governor says death toll is the highest since Russia bombed the Kramatorsk railway station a month ago.

People take shelter in a basement in Marinka, using candles for light. as Russia turns its firepower on Donetsk
Residents take shelter in the basement of a building in the town of Marinka as Russia steps up attacks in the Donetsk region [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

Russian attacks in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region have killed at least 21 civilians and injured 27, the highest daily death toll in a month, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Writing on Telegram, Kyrylenko said at least 10 people were killed after the Russians shelled the Avdiivka coke plant, one of Europe’s largest. Five more people were killed in the town of Lyman, four in the town of Vuhledar and one each in the villages of Velyka Novosilka and Shandrygolove, he said.

The death toll is the highest in the region since an attack last month on a railway station in the town of Kramatorsk in which more than 50 people were killed.

“For every crime committed on our land, the Russians will be punished,” Kyrylenko said.

Attacks and shelling also intensified in Luhansk, and was particularly severe around Popasna, where it was impossible to organise evacuations, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said.

“There are no safe cities in Luhansk region,” he said on Telegram.

Father, mother and son evacuate in a bulletproof bus with small windows from the eastern Ukraine city of Lyman amid heavy shelling
Igor (right) holds his three-year-old son as he sits next to his wife Yana on a bulletproof bus as they evacuate from the eastern Ukrainian city of Lyman, which has come under heavy Russian shelling [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

Russian forces have turned their heaviest firepower on Ukraine’s east and south after failing to take Kyiv, the capital, as Moscow tries to limit Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea, vital for its grain and metal exports.

Kyrylenko said the strike on Avdiivka came as “the workers had just finished their shift and were waiting at the bus stop for a bus to take them home from the factory”.

“The Russians knew where they were aiming.”

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, who is in eastern Ukraine and recently visited the facility, said the plant was not fully operational because of the fighting, but that there would still have been hundreds of workers. Casualty figures were likely to rise, he said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had struck a military airfield near the southern Black Sea port of Odesa and had destroyed drones, missiles and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by its allies in the United States and Europe. Ukraine said three missiles targeted the Odesa region and all were intercepted.

Pummelled by Western sanctions, Russia faces new measures from the EU that would target its oil industry and banks, and are expected to be revealed later on Wednesday.

Nearly 10 weeks into a war that has killed thousands, destroyed cities and driven five million Ukrainians to flee overseas, Moscow has shown no signs of pulling back.

Russia’s own $1.8 trillion economy is heading for its biggest contraction since the years following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

Source: News Agencies