Emergency workers recovered three bodies from a school hit by a Russian attack in eastern Ukraine, authorities said, one of a string of attacks in several parts of the nation.
The reported casualties in the city of Kramatorsk followed a barrage Thursday on a densely populated area of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, that killed at least three other people and wounded 23 more.
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Moscow this week reiterated its plans to seize territories beyond eastern Ukraine, where the Russian military has spent months trying to conquer the Donbas region.
The Ukrainian president’s office said that in Kramatorsk, located in the region’s Donetsk province, Russian shelling destroyed a school and damaged 85 residential buildings.
Ukraine’s state emergencies agency said a rescue operation found three bodies in the ruins of the school, which was hit Thursday.
“Russian strikes on schools and hospitals are very painful and reflect its true goal of reducing peaceful cities to ruins,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks, repeating his call for residents to evacuate.
‘Sow panic and fear’
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, however, said that Thursday’s attack killed more than 300 Ukrainian troops who used Kramatorsk’s School No. 23 as their base. He said another raid destroyed a munitions depot in the industrial zone of the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Konashenkov also said that Russian forces destroyed four High Mobility Artillery Rocket System supplied by the United States from July 5-20. The US said it has supplied 12 of the multiple-rocket launchers and will deliver four more for Ukrainian military use.
The claims could not be independently verified. A senior US defence official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity in line with department rules, said Thursday that Russia had not yet taken out a single HIMARS but was likely to “get lucky” and do so at some point.
The Ukrainian military has used HIMARS, which have a higher range and better precision compared with similar Soviet-era systems in the Russian and Ukrainian inventory, to attack Russian munitions depots and other key targets.
In the Dnipro region of central Ukraine, three schools were destroyed in the latest Russian attacks, Ukrainian authorities said. Seven Russian missiles hit the small town of Apostolove, wounding 18 residents.
The regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, decried the “senseless” attack.
“There are no military goals behind it, and this shelling could only be explained by their desire to keep people on edge and sow panic and fear,” Reznichenko said.
Meanwhile, the senior US defence official said the fight for Donetsk is “likely to last through the summer”, with Russia achieving slow gains at a high cost.
The official said that Russia is presently launching tens of thousands of artillery rounds per day but has used a lot of “smarter munitions” and “can’t keep it up forever”.