The residential block in the town of Chasiv Yar was hit on Saturday evening (AEST Sunday) as Russia re-stepped its attack on towns and villages in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to take control of the entire Donbas area.
The State Emergency Service said the bodies of 15 people had so far been found under the rubble and search and rescue efforts are continuing.
At 1:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. AEST) Sunday, rescuers rescued five people and made contact with three others who are still buried under the rubble, the agency said in a statement.
The emergency service added that 24 people, including a child, “may still be under the rubble”.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of Donetsk’s regional military administration, told Ukrainian television that the area was hit by two or three Russian missiles and that the incident was “another confirmation of the crimes committed by the Russian Federation, a confirmation that residential areas shooting”. †
Chasiv Yar and other towns in Donetsk have come under heavy fire in recent days as Russian forces attempt to crush Ukrainian resistance in the area and move further west.
Donetsk and Luhansk are the two regions that make up the Donbas, the eastern part of Ukraine where the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists began in 2014.
The area has become the main focus of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military ambition in Ukraine after his forces failed to take over Kiev earlier this year.
Russian forces have already taken over almost the entire region of Luhansk, the head of the military government of Luhansk, Serhiy Hayday, said in a Telegram post on Saturday, adding that about 300,000 people from the area have been forced to flee their homes.
Lysychansk, the last city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, fell to Russia last week.
Russian forces have since concentrated on the Donetsk region, shelling large areas along the frontline and pushing from the Luhansk region into the Donetsk region, Hayday said.
The Ukrainians have been defending this area against Russian attacks for more than a month.
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“We are trying to contain the Russian armed formations along the entire front line,” Hayday said, adding that “the occupying forces have had minor successes and continue their offensive west of Lysychansk.”