Death Toll From Russian Strike in Sloviansk, Ukraine, Climbs

Rescuers on Saturday continued to sift through the rubble of an apartment block in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk as the death toll from a Russian attack there a day earlier climbed to nine.

Russia sent a barrage of missiles into residential areas of the city on Friday, according to Ukrainian officials. The recovery of a woman’s body overnight brought the total death toll to nine, according to local officials, including a 2-year-old boy who had been rescued from a building but who later died in an ambulance. The head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said that 21 others had been injured. He added that 34 apartment buildings were damaged in the barrage, along with an administrative building and shops.

On Saturday morning, Vadym Lyakh, a local official, told the Ukrainian broadcaster Suspilne that five people were still believed to be trapped under the rubble.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine noted that the attack had taken place on Good Friday, at the start of one of the Orthodox Church’s most important religious festivals.

“Another strike by terrorists,” Mr. Zelensky said in an overnight speech, adding: “This is an evil state, and it will lose. To win is our duty to humanity.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense made no reference to Sloviansk in a daily update on Friday.

Sloviansk is in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. About 34 miles west of two cities seized by Russian forces over the summer, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, it is within range of Moscow’s artillery. Sloviansk has been hit by Russian strikes so often that for months the Ukrainian authorities have urged civilians to evacuate.

The city is about 25 miles northwest of Bakhmut, which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent months. Russian forces have been bombarding Bakhmut since the summer in a battle that has exacted heavy casualties on both sides. Soldiers there in recent weeks have been locked in block-by-block combat. In recent days, Russia has made incremental progress.

Both sides have sustained large numbers of casualties in the battle. While military experts say that Russian losses in Bakhmut have been much higher, the toll for Ukraine has also been considerable, leading to questions about at what point saving the city might prove unsustainable.

“Saving the lives of our soldiers is a priority for the military command,” Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Moscow’s battle for Bakhmut is part of a broader campaign in eastern Ukraine aimed at capturing all of the Donbas region, which is made up of Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk. In addition to Bakhmut, Moscow has focused much of its firepower on trying to seize control of Marinka, Avdiivka and Lyman. On Saturday, Ukraine’s general staff said that its forces had repelled 56 attacks in the four centers of combat over the previous 24 hours.

Ukraine’s military is widely expected to launch a spring counteroffensive to recapture territory occupied by Russian forces.

It will rely on freshly trained troops, but it has also received an influx of military aid from the United States and other key allies in recent months given the close military and diplomatic relationships forged since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, and these are also expected to be deployed.

Classified documents have come to light in recent days, including U.S. battlefield assessments about Ukraine, but Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, played down the potential impact of the leaks and said that the two countries were “very united.”

“We have no secrets from our reliable strategic partners,” Mr. Shmyhal told a news conference on Friday in Washington. “Nothing will affect or change our plans for a counteroffensive. Our goal is victory.”

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