Natalia Butenko fears a Russian invasion as Fairytale Kindergarten is shelled by Russians while infants ate their breakfast. The explosion narrowly missed 20 children, aged from two to six
Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
A teacher has told of the terrifying moment Russian-backed rebels shelled her school.
The wall of the kindergarten’s sports room, where pupils had been gathered minutes before what was shattered.
And today there was no let-up in the terror as shells rained down nearby in what could herald a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Natalia Butenko said: “I was on the other side when the explosion happened – I called the other teachers and we gathered the kids who were very scared.
Natalia, 38, added: “The kids were having their breakfast when the attack happened.
“They had just finished gymnastics and went to eat.”
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
The explosion narrowly missed around 20 children, aged from two to six, who had left the room a few minutes earlier.
Even as she spoke outside the Fairytale Kindergarten classroom, loud booms of incoming shells hit the community nearby.
Natalia was too scared to say what she thought of those who fired on the school two days ago.
The wheels of the Russian war machine are already “in motion”, say Western leaders after a day of shelling and “false flag” attacks in eastern Ukraine.
In such actions, soldiers attack their own side to create a pretext to hit back.
Half a mile from pro-Russian lines in Stanitsa Luhanska, where separatists have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014, the Sunday People witnessed the constant bombardment which made a mockery of a so-called ceasefire. Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy PM for reintegration of temporarily occupied territories, yesterday toured the area.
She said: “People here need psychological support because at the moment the kids are not going to kindergarten and they also need financial support. The Russian Federation fabricated information to make it look like the kindergarten is in uncontrolled territory and it was Ukrainian armed forces that shelled it. Of course that’s not true.”
Ukrainian soldiers who escorted us to the area – which was hit dozens of times yesterday – warned us to “stay close as it is extremely here.”
Colonel Oleksander Gain, 38, a married father of two, told the Sunday People: “You can hear for yourself what is happening here. It is being shelled even now and it is a civilian area.
“The nearest military installation is probably three miles away and yet still they are firing shells and mortars here.”
Asked if Ukrainian forces were firing back, he said: “I would say this happens only when there is a danger to lives of our soldiers and we have to suppress the fire.”
Troops here estimate pro-Russian separatists fire 20 times to their one time.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
He added: “The Russians are occupiers and invaders. They don’t care about life and the quality of life. If we fire back we have to be mindful that when they retaliate they could harm these communities.
“And we calculate they are firing at us at an increasing rate at the moment.”
Local man and former engineer Volodymyr, 59, passed us on his bicycle, casually going shopping. He has remained in the beleaguered community with his wife despite most of the family fleeing.
Volodymyr, a grandfather, says: “I was born here and I am not leaving. I have no choice but to stay as I have no job and where would I go anyway?
“Every day we get a morning hello from the Russian shelling. It’s frightening.
“My family are very worried about me but maybe it will be OK, even though it’s the worst shelling since 2015.” In a day of increased violence, Russia claims two shells landed in the Rostov region less than mile from the Ukrainian border. Kiev denies this.
In further sign of “false flag” operations forming a possible pretext for a full invasion, the local press reported separatists had shelled their own positions near Mariupol and blamed the Ukrainian army.
Ukraine said two of its soldiers were killed and five injured today in shelling by pro-Russian separatists.
The Ukrainian military reported 70 ceasefire violations by separatists since the start of the day, compared to 66 the day before. The Ukrainian government said: “We will not allow the firing on the positions of our troops and human
settlements with impunity.”