Ukraine Accuses Russia-Backed Fighters of Bombing Kindergarten

A Ukrainian soldier looks at debris after the reported shelling of a kindergarten in the s
Photo by Aleksey Filippov/AFP via Getty Images

Militants allegedly backed by Russia in the occupied Ukrainian territories of Donetsk and Luhansk bombed a kindergarten in the Ukrainian settlement of Stanytsia Luhanska on Thursday, the National News Agency of Ukraine (Ukrinform) reported.

“Today at about 9:00 [am], Russian occupiers fired on the village of Stanytsia Luhanska. One of the shells hit a kindergarten where children were at the time. According to preliminary information, kids have not been injured, but two teachers have received blast injuries,” Ukrinform, a government news agency, reported on February 17.

The state-run news agency cited as its source a Twitter statement issued by the Come Back Alive Fund, a Ukrainian NGO that helps Ukrainian soldiers in the war in Donbas. The Donbas region consists of Donetsk and Luhansk, both of whom have two different pro-Russia groups that have declared themselves independent republics.

“With exceptional cynicism, Russian occupation forces shelled the village of Stanytsia Luhanska in Luhansk region,” the press service of Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation (JFO) wrote in a statement posted by its Facebook page on February 17.

“As a result of terrorists’ use of heavy artillery, shells hit a kindergarten. According to preliminary information, two civilians have received blast injuries,” the statement read.

The shelling allegedly damaged other municipal infrastructure in Stanytsia Luhanska, including the local Kindrashivska-Nova train depot.

“Half of the settlement has been left without electricity,” Ukrinform reported on Thursday.

Oleg Nikitin, a spokesman for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) militia — that region’s pro-Russia secessionist entity — issued a statement on February 17 describing the shelling of Stanytsia Luhansk as a “retaliation” against a breach in local ceasefire by Ukrainian forces.

“The forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) had to open retaliatory fire to suppress the Ukrainian army’s weapons and protect civilians,” Nikitin wrote in a statement published by TASS, a Russian state-run news agency.

“In order to protect civilians, our defenders had to open retaliatory fire to suppress the enemy’s weapons,” the DPR spokesman reiterated.

“We call on international observers and the leadership of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] to register yet another fact of the gross violation of the ceasefire by the Ukrainian side that is purposefully provoking the resumption of hostilities in Donbas,” the statement read.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on February 17, labeled the Stanytsia Luhansk incident a “false flag” attack by Russia to instigate conflict with Ukraine.

“A kindergarten was shelled in what we are taking to be – well, we know – was a false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians, designed to create a pretext, a spurious provocation for Russian action,” Johnson told reporters on February 17.


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