The Ukrainian military said artillery rockets hit a village on the Ukrainian government-controlled side of the border in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, destroying a kindergarten and wounding three adults, adding to tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.
The artillery barrage also cut off power, forcing inhabitants to take shelter in cellars. The incident occurred during Russia’s military buildup along the Ukrainian border, which is not unexpected given the degree of bloodshed along the front that has continued for years.
The artillery fire was directed at the town of Stanytsia Luhanska in northeastern Ukraine, which is located on the frontline of the eastern Ukraine fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists. It’s also close to Russia’s border, where Western nations claim Moscow has assembled a significant military force ready to attack Ukraine.
The strike was blamed on what the Ukrainian military dubbed “occupation” forces, implying that the artillery was launched by Russia-backed separatists who have been active in eastern Ukraine for eight years.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, blamed Russia for a “serious violation” of the region’s tenuous cease-fire agreement, while President Volodymyr Zelensky described it as “provocative shelling.” Ukraine and Western leaders have previously warned that a full-scale Russian attack could be preceded by some sort of provocation, possibly manufactured by Moscow.
The reports of bombardment were “troubling,” according to Lloyd J. Austin III, the US defense secretary in Brussels. “We’ve argued for some time that the Russians may conduct something like this in order to justify a military war,” Mr. Austin said as the US was still gathering data. As a result, we’ll be keeping a careful eye on this.”
Dmitri S. Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, did not explicitly respond to Ukraine’s claim, but did say that Moscow was concerned about “an continuous exchange of attacks” along the front, with “the first strike coming from the Ukrainian side.”
“We have warned many times that excessive concentration of Ukrainian forces near the contact line, together with possible provocations, can pose terrible danger,” Mr. Peskov said. He added that he hoped Western countries would warn Kyiv against a “further escalation of tensions.”
The Ukrainian military shared photos of a kindergarten room littered with stones and toys. Children were present at the time of the bombardment, according to the military, but no casualties were reported among the pupils. Soldiers evacuated children and staff members to a shelter after three kindergarten workers were injured, according to the military.
Artillery and small-arms fire are both regular along the frontlines, with an international monitoring organization reporting dozens to hundreds of cease-fire breaches every day in recent years. Damage to homes, schools, administrative buildings, and infrastructure, such as electricity pylons, is common. An abandoned school in an eastern Ukrainian village was targeted by a drone strike earlier this year, according to Ukrainian officials.