‘A whistling sound, then an explosion’: Shelling hits a kindergarten in Ukraine.

‘A whistling sound, then an explosion’: Shelling hits a kindergarten in Ukraine.

STANYTSIA LUHANSKA, Ukraine — The fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces has been flaring for eight years. Daily skirmishes, mostly low-level, had become routine.

But an outbreak of hostilities on Thursday, coming at a particularly perilous moment in the tense standoff between Russia and the West, brought the fear of a larger conflict close to home for this dusty remote town not far from the Russian border.

The Ukrainian military said shells fired by Russian-backed separatists in the morning had hit a kindergarten, wounding three teachers but no students, as well as the playground of a high school.

“It was a whistling sound, then an explosion,” said Tatyana Podikay, the director of the school, called Fairytale Kindergarten.

The military also said two soldiers and a woman at a bus station were wounded. There were no reported fatalities.

In the evening, the sharp cracks of explosions echoed off buildings and flashes of light from incoming artillery shells silhouetted the trees. Out on the darkened streets, explosions echoed among the buildings. At least two volleys of a half dozen rounds each struck the town, arriving with a sharp hiss before exploding. Drivers stopped their cars, got out and listened worriedly.

Each side blamed the other for the shelling, which was viewed with concern in Ukraine and in Western capitals for its potential to spiral into a bigger conflict. Analysts said the nature of the shelling, which hit multiple sites along the contact line all in a single day, was unusual compared with recent months.

“Today it was long-distance and synchronized shelling,” said Maria Zolkina, a Ukrainian political analyst who works at the Democratic Initiatives Foundation. “It was simultaneous. This is notable.”

Leave a Reply