At least eight people, including a toddler, have been killed in a Russian missile attack on a residential area in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, police and the governor said.
The attack on the quiet neighbourhood on Friday came as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill that will make it easier to mobilise citizens into the army, and block them from fleeing the country if drafted.
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The governor of the Donetsk region Pavlo Kyrylenko told national television that seven Russian S-300 missiles had been fired at Sloviansk, west of the city Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest fighting on the Ukrainian front line.
“As of now, casualties at all sites – 21 people were injured and eight people have died,” Kyrylenko said on national television.
Kyrylenko said there were “no fewer than seven spots hit” in Sloviansk, west of the city Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest fighting on the Ukrainian front line.
Ukrainian police said on Twitter that a child died in an ambulance after being pulled out from the rubble.
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska said the child was a two-year-old boy and sent her condolences to the family during this “indescribable grief”.
“The evil state once again demonstrates its essence,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a post accompanied by footage of a damaged building.
“Just killing people in broad daylight. Ruining, destroying all life.”
Ukrainian police said 10 buildings were damaged in the assault. They said the two top floors of a five-storey building had collapsed after the attack and a fire had broken out opposite the site.
Rescue teams were combing through the affected area.
“I live on the opposite side of the street and I was sleeping a little when I heard this huge boom and I ran out from my flat,” 59-year-old resident Larisa told the AFP news agency.
“I was really scared and in a state of shock,” she said, adding the impact of the shelling had broken her windows and sent shards of glass flying throughout her home.
“I heard a woman screaming, ‘There’s a child here, there’s a child here.’ She was screaming so much.”
Putin signs conscription bill
More than a year after Moscow launched its offensive in Ukraine, fears were high in Russia that the government was planning a new mobilisation drive after a bill was rushed through parliament this week to create a digital draft system.
Under the legislation, which Putin signed Friday, a draftee would be banned from travelling abroad and would have to report to an enlistment office once electronic call-up papers are received.
Tens of thousands of men fled Russia last year after Putin announced a mobilisation to prop up the forces in Ukraine.
The attack on Sloviansk, which many residents have fled since Russia invaded, came as Moscow said it was pushing to take more districts of ravaged Bakhmut.
Despite having little strategic value, the town has become a fixation of military commanders, leading to a brutal nine-month war of attrition.
“Wagner assault units are conducting high-intensity combat operations to conquer the western districts of the city,” the Russian army said in a statement, referring to the private paramilitary group.
Russian airborne troops were “providing support to assault squads and halting the enemy’s attempts to deliver ammunition to the city and bring in reserves”, it added.
On Thursday, Moscow claimed to have cut off Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. Kyiv denied the claim, saying it had access to its troops and was able to send in munitions. Ukraine has pledged to continue defending Bakhmut.