Twenty-one persons were killed and 25 were injured after Russian forces shelled Merefa town near Kharkiv city in east Ukraine on Thursday, The Kyiv Independent reported.

Out of the injured persons, ten are in a critical condition, the prosecutor’s office in the Kharkiv Oblast said.

A school and community centre were destroyed in the shelling, according to The Kyiv Independent.

Veniamin Sitov, the mayor of Merefa, said that the attack took place just before dawn, The Associated Press reported.

Kharkiv city has witnessed several airstrikes and shelling ever since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Putin has described the invasion as a “special military operation” aimed at dislodging the “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine.

The bombing of several Ukrainian cities has resulted in nearly 50,000 casualties so far. More than 25 lakh people have fled the country.

On March 13, the Ukrainian government said that at least 1,300 of its soldiers had been killed since Russia’s attack began, The Guardian reported.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday said that the country’s borders must be recognised as the ones that have been in existence since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Reuters reported.

On March 10, the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met in Turkey for talks. However, no progress was made towards agreeing on a ceasefire.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had claimed that the demands made by his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov amounted to surrender.