At least two people have been killed and seven more wounded as Russian forces pounded the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, local authorities have said, as Moscow ramps up its assault on the Donbas region.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Sloviansk, said on the instant messaging service Telegram on Tuesday that two people had been killed and seven others injured in shelling which the mayor said hit the city market.
It was not immediately clear what munitions had been used in the attack on the front-line city in the Donetsk region, or how many people had been at the market when it was hit.
“Once again the Russians are intentionally targeting places where civilians assemble. This is terrorism pure and simple,” Kyrylenko said on Telegram, urging the residents to evacuate.
Police said the market had been closing for the day but that some shops had still been open when it was hit.
“Together with police we are documenting the shelling of the city,” prosecutor Oleksandr Bakumenko, who was at the market after the attack and wore a vest that read “war crimes investigator”, told the news agency Reuters.
Sloviansk Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on Facebook that the city had come under heavy shelling and urged residents to stay in shelters.
“Sloviansk! Massive shelling of the city. The centre, the north. Everyone, take shelter,” Lyakh wrote on Facebook.
He said the shelling damaged 40 houses on Monday.
Ukrainian authorities have on several occasions urged Sloviansk residents to leave the region as the front line approaches the city following Russia’s capture of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in the neighbouring region of Luhansk.
Russian bombardment has killed at least six people and injured another 19 since Sunday in the city which had a pre-war population of approximately 100,000.
Russia has secured almost complete control of the neighbouring Luhansk region. Sloviansk and regional administrative centre Kramatorsk remain under Ukrainian control and are next in Russia’s sights as it seeks to conquer the eastern Donbas region.
It has fired several missile salvos into Sloviansk in recent days.
In 2014, Russia-backed separatists briefly seized Sloviansk.
Tuesday was the eighth anniversary of Ukraine recapturing Sloviansk from Russian proxy forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
In a residential neighbourhood on another side of the city, several houses were damaged and firefighters were tackling flames in a burning house where a missile hit on Tuesday afternoon.
Rescue workers said at least two people had been taken to hospital after the missile hit.
Military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told a briefing that Russian forces were focusing their efforts on the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, firing artillery along the entire front line.
He said Ukraine’s army was trying to prevent Russia from its preparations to launch an assault on Sloviansk.
Russia has denied attacks aimed at civilians since invading Ukraine on February 24. Ukraine says Russia has been using inaccurate Soviet-era missiles to hit military and critical infrastructure, killing many civilians in raids.