At least two people were killed and seven more injured Tuesday as Russian forces pounded the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, local authorities said, as Moscow ramps up its assault on the Donbas region.
“Sloviansk! Massive shelling of the city. The center, the north. Everyone, take shelter,” city mayor Vadim Lyakh wrote on Facebook.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Sloviansk, said on Telegram that two people had been killed and seven others injured in shelling which the mayor said targeted the city’s market.
AFP journalists in the city during the bombardment saw rockets hit the marketplace, leaving it ablaze as firefighters scrambled to put out the fire, while three other shells hit adjacent streets.
“Once again the Russians are intentionally targeting places where civilians assemble. This is terrorism pure and simple,” Kyrylenko said on Telegram, urging local people to evacuate.
Ruslan, a tradesman, could barely hold back tears as he contemplated his burning premises some two hours after the strike.
Accusing Russian forces of “genocide”, he said the strikes were designed to “make people afraid so that they flee” the city.
Earlier Russian strikes had Sunday left at least six people dead with a further 19 injured in the city with a pre-war population of around 100,000.
Sloviansk briefly came under the control of pro-Moscow separatist forces in 2014 before Ukrainian authorities regained control.
Ukrainian authorities have on several occasions urged residents to leave the region as the frontline approaches the city following Russia’s capture of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in the neighbouring region of Lugansk.
Sloviansk and the regional administrative capital of Kramatorsk, which remain under Ukrainian control, are next in Russian troops’ line of fire as they step up their offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.