A few doors away, Valentina Melnichenko, 72, a retired warehouse clerk, was watching television Friday morning when a shell landed in her back yard, obliterating a small brick outbuilding. Her husband, who died a few years ago, had built it, she said. “Now, it’s destroyed,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Impact craters, about a yard deep and encircled by sprays of black earth on the snow, pocked yards and the playground of a school.
Explosions had sheared branches from trees and shattered windows.
Olena Yaryna, the principal of the town’s school, said the shell hit the playground at about 10:30 a.m., breaking windows but doing little other damage. She and the teachers herded the children into the hallways, away from the windows, and had them lie flat on the floor.
“That’s how we lived through it,” Ms. Yarnya said. “I absolutely don’t understand why they shelled us.” She added, “The children got very scared and the parents even more.”
Fighting in eastern Ukraine is not unusual, with periodic flare-ups throughout the war years. Yet, local people say the recent increase is the most severe in two years, since a tentative and oft-violated cease-fire took effect.
And it comes amid an escalation that has seen Russia announce major military exercises this weekend that will feature the launch of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as a test of its strategic nuclear forces — the land-based launchers, bombers and warships used to deliver nuclear weapons — and naval exercises on the Black Sea.