Just hours after Russian defense officials touted a supposed pullback of troops in areas around Ukraine’s capital, Vladimir Putin’s troops lobbed mortar shells at residential areas in the east of the country where civilians were sound asleep.
A kindergarten in Lysychansk in the Luhansk region was among the buildings struck, along with several apartment blocks, according to local authorities.
“In the morning Lysychansk was rocked by intense fire by the Russian army. There are a significant number of destroyed residential buildings. People who were still sleeping [at the time of the attacks] have wound up beneath the ruins. Rescuers are trying to save all the survivors in time,” the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said in a statement on Facebook.
Serhiy Gaidai, the head of the regional administration, said at least one person was found dead beneath the wreckage, while at least five people were pulled out alive.
Areas in the Donetsk region were also bombarded with Russian fire overnight, with the towns of Maryinka and Novo-Mikhaylovka hit by airstrikes, according to local authorities.
There were reports of Russian troops using white phosphorus munitions in Maryinka, which could constitute a war crime if used near civilians. The incendiary weapon is known for the severity of burns it leaves on human flesh.
“The situation in the region is complicated. The night passed with shelling in practically every area. In Maryinka phosphorus munitions and airstrikes were used,” said Pavel Kirilenko, chairman of the regional military administration.
The Daily Beast could not immediately verify whether white phosphorus was used, or thermite submunitions, which were previously reported in use by Russian troops in Syria.
The attacks are in line with assessments by U.S. and Western officials that the Russian military plans to intensify its attacks further east in the country after suffering setbacks around Kyiv and Chernihiv. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday vowed to “drastically reduce” military activities in those areas.
But even after that claim, which Russia billed as a way to boost “mutual trust” during peace negotiations with Ukraine, shelling was still reported in the Chernihiv region overnight, and several Russian rockets were shot down outside Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities said.
“Yesterday the Russians publicly declared that they would reduce their offensive attacks in the Chernihiv and Kyiv regions. Do we believe them? Of course not. And we are ready for any scenario. We will also meet the enemy in Chernihiv, which we are doing,” said Viacheslav Chaus, head of the Chernihiv region.
Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said early Wednesday that “unfortunately, it is not yet possible” to say Russian forces have cut back their attacks.
“We can say that certain units and equipment have moved to the territory of Belarus. This looks more like a rotation and licking of wounds than a real suspension of hostilities,” Denysenko said in a live telemarathon on the state of the war.
Russia’s attack on an administrative building in Mykolaiv also continued to grow Wednesday, with 12 people now found dead in the wreckage and at least 33 wounded as rescuers continue to search for survivors.