Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has condemned Russian air strikes carried out during the Orthodox Church’s observance of Palm Sunday, including an attack that killed a 50-year-old man and his 11-year-old daughter.
“This is how the terrorist state marks Palm Sunday,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. “This is how Russia places itself in even greater isolation from the world.”
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Ukrainian emergency services said the man and his daughter were killed after Russian forces struck a residential building in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.
A woman believed to be the wife and mother of the victims was found alive under rubble at the site of the attack.
Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed 70,000 tonnes of fuel near Zaporizhzhia as well as warehouses storing missiles, ammunition and artillery in the Zaporizhia and Donetsk regions.
Zelenskyy’s remarks came as Ukraine’s military reported Russian strikes across the front, with the fighting most concentrated on the eastern cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
Zelenskyy praised military units defending positions in the east and expressed hope that the next Palm Sunday would take place at a time of “peace and freedom for all our people”.
Most of Ukraine’s 43 million people are Orthodox Christians who follow the Julian Calendar designed by Roman emperor Julius Caesar, meaning they celebrate Easter a week later than the majority of Christians in the West.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic church, used his traditional Easter Sunday address to ask God to “comfort the wounded and all those who have lost loved ones” and “help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia″.
The Ukrainian military has reported repelling more than 40 attacks by Russian forces over the past 24 hours, including unsuccessful advances on areas west of the eastern city of Bakhmut.
Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk, has been the site of the longest battle in Russia’s 13-month war against Ukraine. Analysts say the Kremlin views taking Bakhmut as an important step towards capturing strategically important and heavily-fortified cities and towns in the Donbas region such as Chasiv Yar, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
Ukrainian officials have pledged to defend Bakhmut against repeated Russian attacks, but Zelenskyy has acknowledged that troops could be pulled back if they are at risk of being encircled.
Ukrainian officials also reported that Kharkiv in the northeast and Zaporizhia in the southeast came under missile, rocket and artillery fire.
Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said two men in the city of Kupiansk died on Sunday after residential areas were struck by multiple rocket launchers.
Syniehubov said a 30-year-old man was also hospitalised in serious condition after shelling of the city of Chuhuiv.