POKROVSK, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian rocket strikes came early in the morning in the eastern Ukrainian town of Pokrovsk on Wednesday, shaking buildings, jolting people out of bed and sending chunks of concrete and jagged pieces of metal flying through the air.
One of the two rockets left a crater at least three meters deep, remnants of the projectile still smoldering as nearby residents picked through the debris of their homes, trying to salvage whatever they could.
A row of low terraced houses nearby suffered significant damage, with roofing tiles blown off, door frames ripped from the walls and pieces of brick, concrete and asphalt scattered on the ground.
Four civilians were wounded, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk military administration. At least one of them suffered a head wound and was ferried to the local hospital by ambulance, blood seeping through the bandages and trickling down the side of his neck.
The strikes in Pokrovsk were among several over the past two days that have hit towns and villages as Russia pressed forward in its offensive in the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.
“There’s no place left to live in, everything is smashed,” said Viktoria Kurbonova, a mother-of-two who lived in one of the terraced houses. The windows had been blown out by an earlier strike about a month ago, and they had replaced them with plastic sheeting. That, she said, probably saved their lives as at least there was no glass flying around.
She had been asleep when the strike hit, just meters from her house.
“There was a really big flash and a lot of dust,” Kurbonova said, standing outside her home still in her pajamas, her legs and arms blackened by soot. Her 4-year-old son wandered around, clutching a toy train, while her 2-year-old daughter smiled in a stroller nearby.
“I was reaching for my child and I couldn’t find him in the dust,” she said. The boy had been sleeping in the same room as her, while her daughter had been in the next room with Kurbonova’s mother. They were all shaken, but none were hurt.
Kyrylenko said Russian strikes killed 12 civilians the previous day in the Donetsk region, and wounded another 10. Another strike on the city of Kramatorsk, northeast of Pokrovsk, hit a multi-story building under construction, damaging it and blowing out windows in nearby buildings but causing no casualties.
“Russians continue hitting the cities that are away from the front line,”Kyrylenko said on his Telegram channel. “They would like to kill as many civilians as possible and cause panic. That is why the only good choice is evacuation. Evacuation saves lives.”
The governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said at least six civilians had been killed and eight wounded over the past 24 hours in shelling in the town of Sieverodonetsk, at the heart of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Russian forces have been attempting to encircle Sieverodonetsk and cut off Ukrainian forces there. Haidai accused the Russians of deliberately targeting shelters where civilians were hiding.
Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for eight years and hold large swaths of territory. Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities are the only part of the Donbas’ Luhansk region still under Ukrainian government control.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Elena Becatoros, The Associated Press