MOSCOW: Russia said on Sunday the death toll from a Ukrainian strike on a bakery in the occupied eastern city of Lysychansk climbed to 28 people, including a child.

Moscow’s occupation forces said Kyiv struck a building that housed a bakery popular with locals on weekends. Ukraine has not yet commented on the strike.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday visited his embattled country’s troops on the southern front, as Moscow’s dragging offensive drags on for almost two years.

Lysychansk is a city in the occupied Lugansk region that fell to Russian forces after one of the most brutal battles during Moscow’s long offensive in summer 2022. Before the Russian army entered Ukraine, it had a population of around 110,000 people.

“Search operations continue on the site of the collapsed bakery […] 28 people, including a child, have died,” the Russian emergency situations ministry posted on Telegram.

Occupational authorities in Lugansk said there were 18 men, nine women and one child among the dead. They did not give the child’s age. Russia released images of an almost completely destroyed building, with rescuers combing the rubble in the dark, where they found a corpse and a wounded woman who was evacuated on a stretcher.

The one-storey building had a large sign on it that read “Restaurant Adriatic”.

Russia alleged that Ukraine had used Western weapons in the strike and said it expected swift and “unconditional condemnation” from the international community.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian army’s daily report said aviation “struck 12 areas where enemy personnel were concentrated”. It also said its forces “struck one area of enemy concentration”.

Wounded brought to regional capital

Rescuers have so far saved 10 people from the wreckage, according to the Russian emergency ministry. The Russian-installed health minister of the occupational Lugansk government, Natalia Pash­chenko, said they were brought to medical facilities in the main city of Lugansk. She said four of them are in “the most critical state” while two others are in a “severe state”. The city of Lugansk has been under pro-Russian separatist control since 2014.

The Moscow-installed head of Lugansk, Leonid Pasechnik, declared a day of mourning in the Russian-held region and vowed retaliation against Ukraine.

Zelensky in Robotyne

Zelensky on Sunday visited troops in Robotyne — a southern frontline village which Kyiv retook from Russian forces last summer but has since been under relentless attack.

Kyiv recaptured the small village in the Zaporizhzhia region in August last year in what was hailed as a major success in the counter-offensive against Russian forces.

But Kyiv’s efforts to re-claw territory lost to Moscow was then much slower than expected and the front has barely moved in months.

“I have the great honour to be here today, to reward you, because you have such a difficult and decisive mission on your shoulders to repel the enemy and win this war,” Zelensky told fighters.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2024

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