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Russia allegedly fires on civilians in Luhansk region as fighting continues on Easter

A woman stands in front of an icon during the Orthodox Palm Sunday service at a monastery in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. Kharkiv and its surrounding areas have been heavily shelled by Russian forces since the invasion of Ukraine began Feb. 24. Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE
A woman stands in front of an icon during the Orthodox Palm Sunday service at a monastery in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Sunday. Kharkiv and its surrounding areas have been heavily shelled by Russian forces since the invasion of Ukraine began Feb. 24. Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE

April 17 (UPI) -- Russian forces allegedly fired on civilians in the city of Zolote in the Luhansk region of Ukraine as fighting continued Easter Sunday.

Sergiy Haidai, the region's governor, said two people had died and called the attack "premeditated murder" in a Telegram post, according to The New York Times.

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Haidai said in another post that Russian troops had shelled a church in the nearby city of Severodonetsk on Sunday, which is Palm Sunday for Orthodox Christians.

Images he posted to Telegram and social media showed the inside of the church covered in rubble and the roof torn off the building and littering the surrounding area.

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He said that officials would work to evacuate more residents Sunday and encouraged residents to leave their homes "for the sake of safety."

"Every minute we hear explosions! It is impossible to live in such conditions!" Haidai said.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, said on Telegram that five people had died and 13 were wounded in renewed rocket attacks on the neighboring Kharkiv region.

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"The city center was shelled around 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. The occupiers fired shells from multiple rocket launcher systems at the city," he said. "Residential and administrative buildings were damaged. There are fires in different places in the city center."

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Meanwhile, the city of Mariupol "doesn't exist anymore," Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday.

"The situation in Mariupol is both dire militarily and heartbreaking," he said. Kuleba said that Ukraine's remaining forces in Mariupol "continue their struggle" but are "basically encircled by the Russian force."

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"It seems from the way the Russian army behaves in Mariupol, they decided to raze the city to the ground at any cost," he said.

Lyudmila Denisova, the country's human rights ombudsman, said in a statement that more than 100,000 civilians in Mariupol are suffering from food and water shortages.

"For more than a month of siege of the city, the racists did not allow any humanitarian convoys with food and medicine from Ukraine or international organizations," she said.

"The situation with medical care is getting worse every day. Unsanitary conditions are spreading and staying in damp cold basements causes infectious and cold diseases. It is impossible to get medical help in the city."

Denisova said that, starting Monday, civilians will be prohibited from being on the street "to get even a meager ration of bread" without special permits.

"The racists are destroying the people of Mariupol by all possible means, turning the city into hell. Such actions of the Russian Federation are genocide of the Ukrainian people," she said.

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Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister, said Sunday that talks with Russia over a ceasefire along civilian evacuation routes failed, preventing officials from opening humanitarian corridors.

"We are doing our best to have the humanitarian corridors back up and running as soon as possible," she said. "We demand the opening of a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol, especially women and children."

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