Russia forced to evacuate occupied city after entire district becomes engulfed in flames

Ukraine: Smoke rises from Russian occupied Shakhtarsk

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Russian forces in the occupied city of Shakhtersk in eastern Ukraine are reported to have begun emergency evacuations after a heavy bombardment sparked widespread fires threatening residents and homes. Shakhtersk is an urban hub with a population of around 50,000, the city seats within the pro-Russia region of Donetsk and has seen frequent shelling and fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Kremlin separatists. 

Recent footage taken in Shakhtersk shows heavy smoke rising from the occupied city.

Loud explosions can be heard across the city amid reported shelling.

Ukraine artillery fire is reported to have struck a suspected Russian ammunition depot leading to secondary explosions.

The exploding ammo is believed to have triggered a large blaze which threatened to engulf entire neighbourhoods, leading local authorities to launch an evacuation. 

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It comes as at least 15 people were killed and two dozen more are feared trapped after Russian Uragan rockets hit a five-storey apartment block in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, according to local officials.

Ukraine also reported clashes with Russian troops on fronts in the east and south, while Moscow said its forces struck Ukrainian army hangars storing US-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery, near Kostyantynivka in Donetsk region.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said the strike on the apartment building took place on Saturday evening in the town of Chasiv Yar.

The regional emergency service gave the death toll at 15 on Sunday afternoon, adding that 24 more people could still be under the rubble.

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“We ran to the basement, there were three hits, the first somewhere in the kitchen,” said a local resident who gave her name as Ludmila, speaking as rescuers removed a body in a white sheet and cleared rubble using a crane as well as their hands.

“The second, I do not even remember, there was lightning, we ran towards the second entrance and then straight into the basement. We sat there all night until this morning.”

Mr Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram that rescuers in Chasiv Yar had cleared nearly 99 tonnes of rubble from the site of the collapsed apartment block, and that rescue operations were still going on as of 4 pm local time (1300 GMT).

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in a Telegram post that the strike was “another terrorist attack”, and that Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism as a result.

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Russia, which says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarise Ukraine, denies deliberately attacking civilians.

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces comprise the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region that has become Europe’s biggest battlefield for generations.

Russia wants to wrest control of the Donbas on behalf of the separatists that it supports.

Moscow says ejecting the Ukrainian military from the region is central to its operation to ensure its own security, an offensive that has lasted for more than four months and which the West calls an unprovoked war.

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