Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces stand guard at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels in the town of New York in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, February 9, 2022.
Oleksandr Klymenko | Reuters
Ukraine has claimed pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east opened fire on civilian territory on Thursday, damaging a kindergarten.
“The shelling of a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska by pro-Russian forces is a big provocation,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday on Twitter. “It’s important that diplomats and the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] remain in Ukraine, [as] their monitoring activities are an additional deterrent.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense later said that shelling had stopped as of 1 p.m. local time, according to Reuters.
Earlier Thursday, the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation said on Facebook that pro-Russian separatists had shelled 22 settlements in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, with civilians and military personnel sustaining injuries.
“A total of 32 shells were fired by terrorists,” the statement said. “The shelling damaged kindergartens and communal infrastructure — half of the village was left without electricity.”
Three of the kindergarten’s employees were injured, the JFO added, and children and caregivers had been evacuated.
Separately, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported that a school building with pupils and teachers inside was damaged by shelling on Thursday. No one was reported to be hurt in the attack.
A view from the shelled kindergarten in eastern Ukraine on February 17, 2022.
Ukrainian Chief of General Staff | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The ministry also alleged that Russian mercenaries had opened fire in several other locations in eastern Ukraine using artillery and grenades, with it claiming Russian occupation forces had committed 29 cease-fire violations by 11 a.m. local time.
“Ukrainian defenders opened fire in order to stop the enemy’s fire activity,” the JFO said in its statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a last-minute change of travel plans on Thursday following reports of the violence, and will speak at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine before traveling to Munich.
“The evidence on the ground is that Russia is moving toward an imminent invasion,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement Thursday. “This is a crucial moment.”
Kyiv’s accusations come after Russian-controlled media agency RIA claimed earlier Thursday that Ukrainian forces had shelled territory held by pro-Moscow separatists. Kyiv quickly denied the reports, which CNBC has been unable to verify.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told PA Media on Thursday that the attack on the kindergarten was a “false flag operation designed to discredit…
Read More: Ukraine accuses pro-Russia rebels of attack; U.S. says invasion