A fresh barrage of missiles ripped through the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine Thursday, sending flames and thick plumes into the air as screaming civilians scrambled to find shelter.
A CNN team had just arrived at the scene and heard the first incoming strike on Kramatorsk. CNN saw the second attack, with two impacts about one minute apart. Two women jumped from their car and ran yelling while other civilians took shelter wherever they could. Shrapnel bounced off the blastproof glass of one CNN vehicle.
Paramedics rushed to the scene to treat at least one wounded civilian. Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko also confirmed that there had been a strike on the city, and urged residents to stay in bomb shelters.
At least five people were wounded in Thursday’s attack, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region military administration.
“They damaged 13 two-story buildings, three four-story buildings, a children’s clinic and school, garages and cars,” Kyrylenko said. “Russians confirm their status as terrorists every day,” he said.
“It was a very big blast, a lot of people obviously went running for cover,” CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen told Connect the World, adding that both strikes Thursday “struck right in the heart of a civilian city.”
Ukrainian authorities believe Russian troops used S-300 missiles to bombard Kramatorsk. When aimed at ground targets, such weaponry is “very inaccurate,” Pleitgen added.
“When that is done to hit a densely populated urban area, it becomes all the more dangerous.”
Moscow’s renewed assault came after Russian forces targeted the residential neighborhood with an Iskander-K missile Wednesday, killing at least three civilians and wounding another eight, according to local police. Two of the wounded are in critical condition, Honcharenko said.
Rescue workers searched through piles of rubble to try and locate survivors in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack, which damaged eight apartment buildings. Authorities also evacuated people to a local school for shelter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the strike and expressed condolences to the families and friends of the victims.
“This is not a repetition of history; this is the daily reality of our country,” he said on Telegram.
“A country bordering absolute evil. And a country that has to overcome it in order to reduce to zero the likelihood of such tragedies happening again. We will definitely find and punish all the perpetrators. They do not deserve mercy.”
Moscow’s attack in Kramatorsk came after a top Kyiv official said Russia is gearing up for a “maximum escalation” of the nearly years-long war in Ukraine.
“These will be defining months in the war,” Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Sky News in an interview broadcast Tuesday.
“I’m conscious the main fights are yet to come and they will happen this year, within two to three months,” he said.
“Russia is preparing for maximum escalation. It is gathering everything possible, doing drills and training. When it comes to an offensive from different directions, as of now, I can say that we are not excluding any scenario in the next two to three weeks.”
CNN’s Tim Lister, Fred Pleitgen, Konstantin Hak and Matthias Somm reported from Kramatorsk, and Sana Noor Haq wrote in London. CNN’s Jack Guy, Yulia Kesaieva, Mick Krever, Jonny Hallam and Josh Pennington contributed reporting.