The Kremlin was taking a different position. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry S. Peskov, “We have warned several times that an excessive concentration of Ukrainian forces near the line of contact, combined with possible provocations, can pose a terrible danger.” He added that he hoped Western countries would warn Kiev against “further escalation of tensions”.
Russia-backed separatists have also blamed the Ukrainian military. Leonid Pashnik, president of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said that the Ukrainian military bombed civilians early Thursday morning, a claim that could not be independently verified.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei V. Lavrov, said that about a quarter of the population of the breakaway regions – that is, 750,000 out of about three million – are Russian citizens. A strike that injures or kills a Russian citizen may increase the risk of a Russian response.
To highlight what it called reckless shooting in civilian areas, the Ukrainian military moved reporters to the site of the damaged kindergarten. The strike also caused power outages and forced residents to basements in search of shelter.
The Ukrainian military said a 122mm artillery shell hit the school, spraying concrete blocks in a play area for young children that was empty at the time.
Artillery and small arms fire is common along the frontline, with an international monitoring group typically reporting dozens to hundreds of ceasefire violations every day in recent years. Homes, schools, office buildings, and infrastructure, including power towers, are often damaged. Earlier this year, Ukrainian authorities reported that a drone strike hit an abandoned school in an eastern Ukrainian town.
Andrew E. Cramer Reported from Stanytsia Luhanksa, Ukraine, and Valerie Hopkins from Kiev. Maria Varnikova Contributed to reporting from Kiev, and Ivan Nikiburnko from Moscow.
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