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Russian missiles pound city of Sloviansk as British tanks arrive in Ukraine

The tanks are expected to be involved in any spring counter-offensive launched by Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Mar 2023

RUSSIAN MISSILES PUNCHED through buildings in the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk today, killing two people in their cars and wounding more than 30, according to police.

A blood-stained cap lay at the side of the street this afternoon, next to a parked car whose front seat was covered with blood and shattered glass.

Police said 32 were wounded, five very seriously, after two Russian-made S-300 missiles hit the street close to the centre.

Dmytro Nogin, a senior officer from Kramatorsk district police, told journalists that “at around 10:30 there was a missile attack on the city”.

“Two people have already died,” he said. “It was people driving by, chance victims.”

Sloviansk is around 40 kilometres as the crow flies from the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut, where a bloody battle has been running for months. It was briefly captured by Moscow-backed separatists in 2014.

funeral-ceremony-of-ukrainian-defenders-odesa A funeral for a senior Ukrainian soldier who died in Bakhmut ABACA / PA Images ABACA / PA Images / PA Images

A large three-storey administrative building had a huge hole in its facade and windows blown out.

Nogin told AFP it was a railway office where people were undergoing a medical assessment, but two people at the scene called it a military enlistment centre.

‘Everything’s destroyed’

AFP journalists saw a flak jacket being removed from the rubble.

Oleksandr, 34, who was standing outside with his face bandaged, told AFP that he had come for a medical assessment at a “military enlistment centre”.

Outside, several cars were completely burnt out and a digger truck lifted a huge chunk of masonry from one.

Those who died were simply driving past, police said.

“A woman from that car died,” Nogin pointed to a burnt-out vehicle. “Another died from that green car.”

Three women were sweeping up broken glass from outside a small building opposite.

“I came just as it went bang, I work here,” hairdresser Yelena, 42, said tearfully.

“We came and saw everything’s destroyed. It’s good we weren’t there. If we’d been working, we probably wouldn’t be alive. It would have blown everyone away,” she said, appearing to be in shock.

“Some of my clients even worked at the military recruitment office. Thank God they are alive,” she added.

‘Torturing of our people’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “terrorism”.

“The enemy must know: Ukraine will not forgive the torturing of our people, will not forgive these deaths and wounds,” he said on social media.

Another town in the eastern region of Donetsk, Druzhkivka, was also targeted with two missiles hitting an orphanage premises, police said, with “no information about victims”.

AFP journalists saw a soldier patrolling through the locked gates of the centre, where no children were to be seen. He said his commanders had forbidden press access.

Russian forces have made the capture of the Donetsk region their main military priority and claimed to have annexed the region last year despite not fully controlling it.

Challenger tanks arrive

Britain’s Challenger tanks have arrived in Ukraine, a spokeswoman for the defence ministry in Kyiv said on Monday.

“They are in Ukraine already,” spokeswoman Iryna Zolotar told AFP, without providing any other details.

russian-invasion-of-ukraine File photo of a Challenger 2 main battle tank PA PA

The tanks are expected to be involved in any spring counter-offensive launched by Ukraine.

Ukraine’s defence minister said earlier today he inspected a “new addition” to the country’s forces – Challenger tanks as well as Germany’s Marder infantry fighting vehicles, plus Cougar armoured trucks and Stryker armoured personnel carriers from the United States.

“A year ago, no one would have thought that our partners’ support would be so strong,” Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Facebook.

He praised Britain’s Challengers, calling them works of “military art”.

In London, Britain’s government said today that Ukrainian crews who have been training to use UK-donated Challenger 2 tanks are now ready to deploy to the frontline.

“Ukrainian tank crews have completed training on Challenger 2 tanks in the UK and have returned home to continue their fight against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The training began shortly after London announced in January that it would send 14 of the tanks to the front line.

The crews learned how to command, drive and “effectively identify and engage targets”, said the UK ministry, which called it a “step change” in capability for Ukraine’s armed forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Moscow would be “forced to react” if Britain follows through on a promise to deliver to Ukraine armour-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium.

– © AFP 2023

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