KHARKIV – The mother and grandmother of a 15-year-old Ukrainian boy could not hold back their tears. Their anguish filled the cramped hallway as they knelt over the teen's body.
Artem Shevchenko was killed by shelling in Kharkiv, a partially blockaded northeastern city where Russian shelling has increased in recent days. Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border.
Nine civilians died and more than 50 people were wounded Friday in the attack on one of Kharkiv's residential areas, the Ukrainian president’s office reported.
“Please open your eyes, my bunny. Please,” Nina Shevchenko pleaded, captured in a moving Associated Press video in which she mourns her son.
The boy's grandmother arrived as people came to take his body away.
“Let me see him! My baby. My golden sunshine!" the grandmother cried. "My dear sunshine. We just spoke today. My dear, why should I live, if you are gone? I lived for you. My sunshine. Curse them all! They should not find any place, neither on Earth, nor in heaven.”
“I lived for you,” Nina Shevchenko told her son.
“Please open your eyes,” she said, touching his face before paramedics and neighbors took the boy away in a body bag. A seven-month-old baby was also killed in the shelling.
In another building’s hallway, a young girl broke down in tears as she recounted the horror of the attack and how she was saved only when “some woman, God bless her, covered me with her body.”
Outside, bloodied people lay in pain on the streets, where ambulances arrived to treat them.
Amid burned-out cars and debris, a man who had helped his friend into an ambulance spoke out against Russian forces, whose invasion sparked a war in his country.
“What did this guy do to them (Russians)?" asked Sergey Kirichenko, a friend of the wounded man.
“With whom should we make peace?” Kirichenko asked. "With these monsters?”
The Russian Defense Ministry said Russian military strikes in the Kharkiv region “liquidated a squad of mercenaries from a Polish private military company” of up to 30 people and “liberated” an iron and steel factory in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol.
The claims could not be independently verified.
Follow all AP stories on Russia's war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.