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Fears grow in eastern Ukraine as shelling picks up in recent days.

todayFebruary 19, 2022

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Artillery shells struck a ring of front-line towns in eastern Ukraine on Friday, blowing out windows, hitting schools, homes and military positions — and stirring fears that the escalation is a prelude to direct Russian military action.

“I have a small baby,” said Nadya Lapygina, a resident of Staryi Aidar, one of several dozen towns hit by artillery and mortar fire on the northern border of the breakaway separatist region. “You have no idea how scary it is to hide him from the shelling.”

They huddled under the stairs in their home and were unharmed through two volleys on Thursday morning and Friday afternoon, Ms. Lapygina said. The fighting between government soldiers and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine began Thursday, with several dozen towns and villages on the government-controlled side being shelled, the authorities and aid groups said.

Ukrainian military officials and the defense minister confirmed the pickup in shelling, saying that Russian-backed separatists had fired 84 times with heavy weaponry on Thursday and Friday.

Eastern Ukraine — poor, remote and stuck in a grinding eight-year war — is looking increasingly like the flash point that could ignite a wider conflict. That fear was reinforced by a video message from Russian separatists on Friday that warned without evidence of an impending Ukrainian military offensive and urged residents in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic to evacuate to Russia.

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