By Constant Mehéut
Ukrainian officials said Saturday that Russian missile strikes on a city and a village close to the eastern front line had killed at least 11 people, including five children, and wounded 10.
Vadym Filashkin, governor of the Ukrainian-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, said the Russian military hit the area with a barrage of missiles Saturday evening, smashing private houses and trapping residents under the rubble. The Russian government did not immediately comment on the reports.
“The enemy is cynically targeting civilians, trying to bring as much grief to our land as possible,” he wrote in a post on social media, which included images of rescuers searching through the smoldering wreckage of houses in the dark of the night. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said in a statement that rescue operations were underway. “The Russian strike quite simply targeted ordinary, private homes,” Zelenskyy said.
The Saturday strike, which could not be independently confirmed, was reported as Russia and Ukraine have been locked in an escalating cycle of air assaults in recent days. Moscow, in particular, has struck Ukrainian territory with some of the largest attacks since the war began nearly two years ago, killing 90 civilians and injuring more than 400 over five days, according to the United Nations.
Ukraine, in apparent retaliation, has targeted the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, with attacks that Russian authorities said have left at least 24 dead and wounded 100. Russia’s claims could not be independently verified.
Ukrainian officials said Saturday’s attack involved S-300 missiles, which are surface-to-air missiles normally used to target aircraft but which Russia has increasingly repurposed to strike ground targets.
The two locations that were reported struck Saturday — the city of Pokrovsk and the village of Myrnohrad — lie about 25 miles from some of the spots on the eastern front line with the fiercest fighting, including Avdiivka, a city that Russian forces have fiercely attacked for months.
It was not the first time that Pokrovsk, a logistical hub for the Ukrainian army, has been reported hit. In August, two Russian missiles hit the city center 37 minutes apart and in nearly the same location, in what appeared to be a “double tap” attack intended to kill rescuers responding to the first strike. The strikes killed nine people and injured 82.
Before the war, Pokrovsk’s population was about 50,000. It fell to about 30,000 in spring 2022, when many people fled west to escape Russia’s invasion. But by last spring, it had risen back to 57,000 as residents, eager to go home as the war dragged on, returned. Others from surrounding hot spots such as Avdiivka also relocated to Pokrovsk.
It is unclear whether some people have fled again as the fighting has gotten closer and more intense in recent months. Since the fall, Moscow has launched a series of assaults all along the eastern front, pushing to encircle the city of Avdiivka, a linchpin of Ukrainian defenses in the Donetsk region, and apparently seizing control of Marinka, about 25 miles southeast of Pokrovsk, last week.
Russia’s offensive has come at a high cost in casualties for both sides, and the cities targeted by Russian assaults often have been reduced to rubble because of relentless shelling.