Rescuers search for survivors in a partially destroyed residential building, after a shelling in Sloviansk, on April 14, 2023 Rescuers search for survivors in a partially destroyed residential building, after a shelling in Sloviansk, on April 14, 2023  (AFP or licensors)

Killings in Ukraine overshadow Orthodox Easter

Kyiv says Russia has shelled a block of flats in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, killing nine people, including a two-year-old boy. Russia responded by claiming that Ukrainian forces also attacked a town in Russian-controlled Donetsk, killing at least four and injuring 10 people. The clashes have overshadowed Julian-calendar Easter, which many in Ukraine and Russia are celebrating this weekend.

By Stefan J. Bos 

Orthodox Christians here had been preparing for their Easter Sunday to remember the Resurrection of Christ.

But instead, peace in this once quiet neighborhood has been interrupted by Russian strikes and rescue workers shifting searching for survivors.

Here in the eastern city of Sloviansk, authorities say nearly 10 people have died, including a two-year-old boy. The toddler was rescued from the rubble but passed away while being rushed to the hospital.

Friday's strike came as Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation making mobilizing citizens into the army to fight in Ukraine easier. The bill would also block them from fleeing the country if drafted.

However, a Russian official claimed four people were later killed and 10 injured in Ukrainian shelling of the town of Yasynuvata in Russian-controlled Donetsk.

The Russian-installed head of the region, Denis Pushilin, said a seven-year-old girl was among those wounded in Yasynuvata, but those claims could not be verified independently.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

Battles intensifying

Yet the reported strikes underscore the growing intensity of battles in Europe's most devastating armed conflict since the Second World War.

They came as Group of Seven (G7) countries agreed to provide another $5 billion to Ukraine, said Ukraine's prime minister, Denys Shmyhal.

The aid perceived as anti-Russian by Moscow and ongoing battles may further complicate efforts to free Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reporter who Russia is holding.

The parents of the U.S. reporter have expressed worries but also optimism that he will be freed. They, his paper, and the U.S. government have denied the espionage charges against him.

There is also international concern about others being held in Russia's notorious prisons on what critics view as trumped-up charges linked to the war.

Back in this devastated part of Sloviansk, residents are left hoping and praying that the war will end soon and those injured in Russian attacks have a second chance to live this Orthodox Easter.

Ukraine's security service has warned millions of people celebrating Orthodox Easter in Ukraine to "limit the attendance of mass events."

They were also asked to avoid lingering "unnecessarily" in houses of worship during the traditional blessing of the Easter basket.

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15 April 2023, 16:22