At least 28 people were killed and dozens injured after a shell struck a bakery in the Russian-occupied city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region on Saturday, according to Russian-installed officials.
Devastating Attack on Crowded Bakery
The shell hit the “Adriatic” cafe and bakery around 7:40 a.m. local time on February 4th, when many residents were stopping to buy bread products on their way to work.
Photos from the scene show the one-story building with significant damage, its roof caved in and rubble covering the street outside. The large sign reading “Restaurant Adriatic” in Cyrillic letters is still visible amidst the destruction.
According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, the shell that hit the bakery was fired from a U.S.-provided HIMARS rocket system. However, Ukraine has not confirmed or denied responsibility for the strike.
Rising Death Toll
The death toll has risen steadily since initial reports of at least 8 killed. By Saturday evening, local authorities stated that 28 bodies had been pulled from the rubble so far.
The head of the Russian-installed Luhansk regional administration, Leonid Pasechnik, warned that the number may continue rising as debris is cleared.
Over 50 people received injuries of varying severity from the blast and resulting structure collapse, with dozens hospitalized. Due to the crowded morning business hours, the final casualty count could be much higher as search efforts progress.
|Reported Death Toll
Rescue teams worked through the day to locate and extract victims buried under piles of debris. Photos show emergency personnel combing through piles of brick, concrete, and twisted metal to uncover bodies.
Strategic Location Targeted
Lysychansk, the sister city of Severodonetsk across the Siverskyi Donets river, has been under Russian control since early July 2022. Its capture marked a key victory for Moscow after weeks of intense fighting.
The city’s strategic location made it a prize both sides desperately sought to control. Lysychansk sits on higher ground, providing a vantage point for artillery targeting surrounding settlements.
This latest strike indicates it remains very much on the front lines, as Ukraine likely attempts to retake lost territory.
Saturday’s shelling renewed fears for the safety of civilians remaining in Russian-held areas. Despite the occupation, thousands continue living in Lysychansk and the surrounding Luhansk region.
Reactions: Outrage and Blame
Russian officials reacted with outrage, condemnation, and vows of retaliation over the attack.
The speaker of Russia’s parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, described the shelling as a “war crime” and labeled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a “terrorist” for ordering such strikes.
Meanwhile, Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelenskyy, appeared to confirm Ukraine’s involvement by tweeting:
“You shouldn’t be where you shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t eat what was stolen from others.”
He later added that Russians must understand they are “occupiers and invaders” unwelcome on Ukrainian soil.
The harsh rhetoric and unapologetic stance from both sides indicate the already brutal conflict will likely escalate. More Russian missile strikes and shelling of Ukrainian cities can be expected in the coming days as retaliation.
World leaders widely condemned the targeting of civilians while stopping short of assigning blame.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres posted that “attacks against civilians are prohibited under international humanitarian law” and must stop.
French President Emmanuel Macron similarly stated all countries should “abstain from actions targeting civilian populations.”
What Comes Next?
As Russia prepares its response, fears mount over the possibility of renewed assaults on Ukraine’s electrical grid and other critical infrastructure.
Previous infrastructure damage has left millions without power and heat this winter. Further targeting populated civilian areas fits Russia’s strategy to demoralize Ukrainians and turn sentiment against the war.
Meanwhile, Ukraine now faces backlash over civilian deaths in Lysychansk that could impact international support. Continued military aid from Western allies relies on Ukraine upholding moral high ground in the conflict.
But Zelenskyy thus far appears unmoved by criticism, demanding only more weapons from partners. His advisor’s tweets indicate strikes on Russian-occupied regions will proceed unchecked, setting the stage for further bloodshed.
Both sides seem determined to continue the fight, regardless of mounting casualties. Nearly one year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the end remains nowhere in sight.
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