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Evacuation calls as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas

SLOVIANSK (AFP) – Ukrainian officials have called on civilians to urgently evacuate the city of Sloviansk as Russian troops press towards it in their campaign to secure the Donbas region.

Sloviansk has been subjected to “massive” Russian bombardment in recent days, with at least two people killed and seven others wounded in an attack on a marketplace on Tuesday.

Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko of the Donetsk region which includes Sloviansk told Ukrainian media his “main advice is evacuate!”

“This week there hasn’t been a day without shelling,” he said on Tuesday evening, adding that the city was now within range of Russian multiple-rocket launchers.

“The enemy is shelling chaotically, the attacks are aimed at destroying the local population,” he said

People look at the damage caused to the central market in Sloviansk by a suspected missile attack. PHOTO: AFP

“So, once again, the main advice is to evacuate.”

AFP journalists on the ground in Sloviansk saw rockets slam into the marketplace and surrounding streets, with firefighters scrambling to put out the resulting fires.

Kyrylenko also reported shelling across “the entire frontline” in the eastern Donbas region, where Russia has refocussed its efforts since abandoning its initial aim of capturing Kyiv, following tough Ukrainian resistance.

Donbas is mainly comprised of Lugansk, which Russian forces have almost entirely captured, and Donetsk to its southwest – the current focus of Moscow’s attack

The fall of Lysychansk in the region on Sunday, a week after the Ukrainian army also retreated from the neighbouring city of Severodonetsk, has freed up Russian troops to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

On Tuesday, they were first closing in on the smaller city of Siversk – which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk – after days of shelling there.