Eastern Ukraine ice arena destroyed in Russian attack, hockey federation says

KYIV, Jan 3 (Reuters) - A Russian missile attack destroyed an ice arena in the town of Druzhkivka in Ukraine's Donetsk region on Monday, the Ukrainian ice hockey federation said, after earlier reports of a missile hitting the town and injuring two people.

"So it is that since the start of the war, the Russian occupiers have destroyed five ice stadiums," the federation said on its Telegram channel, naming them as the Druzhba venue in Donetsk, arenas in Mariupol and Melitopol, the Ice Palace in Sievierodonetsk and now the Altair arena in Druzhkivka.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the information.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted to Monday's attack with a scathing post on Twitter in which he blasted resistance to Ukraine's calls to exclude Russian athletes from international sporting events.

"I invite all sports officials who want to allow Russian athletes to compete in international events because, as they say, 'politics should be kept out of sports', to visit the Altair ice arena in Druzhkivka ruined by Russia’s 'politically neutral' shelling," Kuleba wrote.

A separate Facebook post by Kyiv's foreign ministry quoted Kuleba as singling out International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach as one of the officials invited to visit the destroyed facility.

The Donbas ice hockey club, which started using Altair in 2014, the year pro-Russia separatists proclaimed the creation of the "Donetsk People's Republic" in the region, said the arena was destroyed "as a result of rocket fire."

Fedor Ilyenko, the club's general manager, said in a Facebook post that the venue had also hosted Ukraine's biggest hockey and figure skating school. It was "more than just a building," he said.

"It's hundreds of children's competitions, dozens of international tournaments, children's smiles...," he wrote. "It's people who have created joy all eight years since the start of the war."

Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February, has turned to mass air strikes on Ukrainian cities since suffering humiliating defeats on the battlefield in the second half of 2022.

Moscow says its attacks, which have knocked out heat and power to millions in winter, aim to reduce Kyiv's ability to fight. Ukraine says the attacks have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians, a war crime.

Writing by Elaine Monaghan and Max Hunder; editing by Grant McCool, Michael Perry and Mark Heinrich

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