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Russia says toll in Ukraine strike on occupied city rises to 28

Russia released images of an almost completely destroyed building, with rescuers combing the rubble in the dark (Handout)
Russia released images of an almost completely destroyed building, with rescuers combing the rubble in the dark (Handout)

The death toll from a Ukrainian strike on a bakery in the occupied eastern city of Lysychansk has climbed to 28 people, including one child, Russia said Sunday.

Moscow's occupation forces Saturday said Ukrainian forces had struck a building that housed a bakery popular with locals on weekends.

Kyiv has not yet commented on the strike.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday visited his embattled country's troops on the southern front, as Moscow's offensive drags on for almost two years.

Lysychansk is in the occupied Lugansk region that fell to Russian forces after one of the most brutal battles during Moscow's long offensive in summer 2022.

Before the Russian army entered Ukraine, the city had a population of around 110,000 people.

"Search operations continue on the site of the collapsed bakery... 28 people, including a child, have died," the Russian emergency situations ministry posted on Telegram.

Officials in Lugansk said there were 18 men, nine women and one child among the dead. They did not give the child's age.

Russia released images of an almost completely destroyed building, with rescuers combing the rubble in the dark, where they found a corpse and a wounded woman who was evacuated on a stretcher.

The one-storey building had a large sign on it that read "Restaurant Adriatic".

- Four in 'critical state' -

Russia alleged Saturday that Ukraine had used Western weapons in the strike and said it expected swift and "unconditional condemnation" from the international community.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian army's daily report said aviation "struck 12 areas where enemy personnel were concentrated".

It also said its forces "struck one area of enemy concentration".

Rescuers have so far saved 10 people from the wreckage, according to the Russian emergency ministry.

The Russian-installed health minister of the occupational Lugansk government, Natalia Pashchenko, said they were brought to medical facilities in the main city of Lugansk.

She said four of them are in "the most critical state" while two others are in a "severe state".

The city of Lugansk has been under pro-Russian separatist control since 2014.

The Moscow-installed head of Lugansk, Leonid Pasechnik, declared a day of mourning in the Russian-held region and vowed retaliation against Ukraine.

- Zelensky in Robotyne -

Zelensky on Sunday visited troops in Robotyne -- a southern frontline village which Kyiv retook from Russian forces last summer but has since been under relentless attack.

Kyiv recaptured the small village in the Zaporizhzhia region in August last year in what was hailed as a major success in the counter-offensive against Russian forces.

But Kyiv's efforts to claw back territory lost to Moscow was much slower than expected and the front has barely moved in months.

"I have the great honour to be here today, to reward you, because you have such a difficult and decisive mission on your shoulders to repel the enemy and win this war," Zelensky told fighters.

"I wish you victory, I want to reward you and I wish you to do everything to achieve this victory sooner," he said.

Later Sunday, his spokesman said Zelensky had been "relatively close" to explosions during his trip.

"This is Robotyne, and there are active hostilities there, so there were relatively close explosions," Sergiy Nykyforov said. "But I would not dramatise the situation."

Kyiv's army also said Sunday its forces had repelled 27 Russian attacks near Avdiivka -- which Russia has tried to capture for months -- and the nearby village of Novokalynove.

Russia has tried to seize the industrial city -- which has been a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after it briefly fell to Moscow-backed separatists in 2014 -- since October.

Russian forces control territory to the north, east and south of Avdiivka.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that Moscow's forces "reached the outskirts of Avdiivka".

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