Dozens of artillery strikes committed by Russian-led militants in Donbas left two Ukrainian soldiers injured and three civilians concussed, according to official reports from the war zone.
Over 47 incidents of enemy shelling have been registered along the 420-kilometer frontline, as of 7 p.m. on Feb. 17.
The heaviest impact was seen in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Stanytsya Luhanska just next to Luhansk, a regional capital occupied by Russia since 2014. According to Ukraine's military, the enemy fired a total of 32 artillery rounds, hitting civilian and military targets, including a local train station.
A 122-millimeter shell impacted a local kindergarten, leaving three teachers concussed. According to Yevgeniy Kaplin, a charity provider associated with the UN present at the scene, the kids were terrified but intact.
The military and local community services helped evacuate civilians, who sought cover in the building's basement.
A soldier was taken to a hospital. The attack also damaged the area's utility infrastructure, leaving half of the city cut off electricity, the Ukrainian military reported.
Later in the day, over 20 other front line locations were also attacked with towed artillery and mortars. Another Ukrainian serviceman was injured.
In the town of Vrubivka in Luhansk Oblast, a 122-millimeter shell impacted a local schoolyard at 10.25 a.m., according to local authorities. 30 pupils and 14 teachers were in the school during the incident.
No casualties have been reported.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky later on Feb. 17 called the shelling "a big provocation" and said that the OSCE monitoring mission and foreign diplomats should stay in the country and provide additional monitoring of the situation, which is "an additional means of deterrence."
NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, while commenting on the incidents in Donbas, said the Alliance was concerned by Russia's attempts to create a pretext for a military attack against Ukraine.
“What we do know is that Russia has amassed the biggest force we have seen for decades in and around Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
The escalation in the war zone unfolded amid continuing Russian military buildup in the region in what might be a preparation for an all-out military action against Ukraine. According to the latest reports from Western and Ukrainian intelligence, Russia currently deploys over 140,000 troops surrounding Ukraine and in the Russian-occupied territories.
On Feb. 17, U.S. President Joe Biden said that a full-out attack might be launched "within the next few days."
“We have reason to believe they are engaged in a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in,” Biden said.