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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A missile strike on Sloviansk is one of the deadliest for Ukrainian civilians this year

Attempting to rescue residents trapped in the rubble in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, on Friday.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg

The death toll from a Russian missile attack on a residential area in Sloviansk, in eastern Ukraine, rose to 15, including a 2-year-old boy, authorities said Monday, making it one of the most deadly assaults on civilians in the country this year.

Rescuers on Monday completed the task of picking through the wreckage of a five-story apartment building in Sloviansk, a city in the Donetsk region, according to the head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, writing on the messaging app Telegram. Kyrylenko said 14 injured survivors had been pulled from the rubble.

Russian forces fired eight missiles early Friday at Sloviansk, which is about 36 miles west of the front line in eastern Ukraine, causing damage to residential buildings, shops and a school. The apartment building was the worst hit.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine about 14 months ago, the country’s forces have carried out a series of attacks that have caused dozens of civilian casualties in each strike. In January, at least 40 people died in the city of Dnieper when a Russian missile hit an apartment building, and in March 2022, survivors of an attack on a theater in the southern city of Mariupol said 60 to 200 people had been killed.

Sloviansk is about 25 miles northwest of Bakhmut, a city that, since last summer, Ukrainian forces have been fighting to retain in one of the longest and most brutal battles of the war. Russia has made gains in recent weeks as Ukrainian forces defend parts of the ravaged city.

The attack in Sloviansk may reflect a shift in tactics by Russian forces, Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force Command, said. From October to March, Russian forces waged a campaign to severely damage Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the hope of bringing the country to its knees during the winter. That campaign ultimately failed, with power cuts having largely ended in the country, and the main energy company has even restarted exports of electricity.

“Everyone had been used to hearing about massive attacks all over Ukraine since autumn and winter, when the enemy actually used the entire strategic arsenal of cruise missiles and fired them at our critical infrastructure objects,” Ihnat said on national television.

“Now, things have changed,” he added. “With the start of spring, the enemy began to primarily attack the southern, eastern and northern regions.”

Russian forces shelled some five towns and villages in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours, Kyrylenko said. On Monday, regional officials in the Kherson, Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions, which are in the south of the country, also reported shelling over the same period.

For months, there has been repeated shelling by Russian forces in Ukraine’s northern regions that border Russia. Strikes hit at least four communities in the Kharkiv region, in the northeast, on Sunday, according to the head of the military administration there, Oleh Syniehubov.

“At least 11 houses were damaged in the shelling of Vovchansk, in the Chuhuiv district. Fires broke out,” he said on Telegram.

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