Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday accused Kremlin forces of targeting rescuers as the death toll from two Russian missile strikes that struck residential buildings in the center of a Ukrainian city rose to at least seven.
The deaths confirmed in the Monday night attacks in the city of Pokrovsk were five civilians, a rescuer and a soldiersaid Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Dozens more were injured, most of them police officers, emergency workers and soldiers. who came to the scene to help residents.
Russian missiles slammed into the center of Pokrovsk, which is in the partially Russian-occupied eastern Donetsk region. Emergency crews were still removing debris at the scene Tuesday. iskander missileswhich have an advanced guidance system that increases their accuracy, struck 40 minutes apart, according to Kyrylenko.
Since the start of the war, Russia has aimed artillery and missiles at exactly the same spot where it bombed some 30 minutes earlier, often hitting emergency workers who had been deployed to the scene. It’s a tactic, called “double touch” in military jargon, which the Russians also used in the Syrian civil war.
“Everyone (the police) was there because they were needed, putting their efforts into rescuing people after the first attack”Ivan Vyhivskyi, head of the National Police of Ukraine, said on Tuesday. “They knew that the wounded were under the rubble: they needed to react, dig, recover, save. And the enemy deliberately struck the second time.”
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that they shelled a command post of the Ukrainian army in Pokrovsk. The claims of neither party could be independently verified.
Among the wounded was Volodymyr Nikulin, a policeman originally from the now Russian-occupied port city of Mariupol.
Arriving on the scene after the first missile attack, Nikulin was wounded in the second attack when shrapnel from the missile pierced his left lung and left hand.
“Today is not my happy day because Russian criminals committed another horrible crime in Pokrovsk,” he said in a video he sent to The Associated Press from a hospital ward in the city.
In a video he is seen lying on a bed shirtless, with dried blood on his side and covering his left hand. He moves in pain to show his injuries.
Pointing his camera to show other injured security forces in the room, he says: “Look, these are Ukrainian heroes who helped (injured) people.”
Like others, Nikulin was taken to a city hospital. But there were so many injuries that he was still waiting for surgery Tuesday morning. He was later transported to a hospital in Dnipro, where he would undergo surgery to remove the shrapnel.
Nikulin had already witnessed some of the horrors of war. He helped an AP team escape after Russian troops that had besieged the city entered the city center and searched for them.
Featured in the award-winning documentary “20 Days in Mariupol”a joint project between The Associated Press and PBS Frontline about the first phase of the Russian invasion of Mariupol.
The head of the Pokrovsk city administration, Serhii Dobriak, described the attacks on Pokrovsk as “a typical Russian scenario: 30-40 minutes between missiles.”
“When rescuers come to save people’s lives, another rocket arrives. And the number of victims increases, ”he said in a video commentary to local media.
Kyrylenko, the regional governor, said that 12 multi-storey buildings were damaged in Pokrovsk, as well as a hotel, a pharmacy, two shops and two cafes.
Russian missiles, drones and artillery have repeatedly struck civilian areas in the war. The Kremlin says its forces are targeting only military assets and claims other damage is caused by debris from Ukrainian air defense weapons.
Meanwhile, an overnight attack in the town of Kruhliakivka, in the northeastern Kharkiv region, killed three people and wounded nine others, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
Russia also dropped four guided bombs on a village near Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, killing two civilians, Ukraine’s presidential office said.
The rescuers then came under attack and two of them were injured, he said.
(with information from AP)
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