DNIPRO, Ukraine — The death toll from a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the southeastern city of Dnipro rose to 23 Sunday, the local government reported as rescue workers scrambled to pull survivors from the rubble.
Emergency crews worked through the frigid night at the multi-story residential building, the site of the worst casualties from a barrage of Russian strikes Saturday on Ukrainian cities. The attacks, which also targeted the capital, Kyiv, and the northeastern city of Kharkiv, ended a two-week lull in Moscow’s widespread strikes on Ukraine’s power infrastructure and urban centers.
Russia fired 33 cruise missiles on Saturday, of which 21 were shot down, according to Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces.
In Dnipro, workers used a crane as they tried to rescue people trapped on upper floors of the apartment tower where about 1,700 were living. Some residents signaled for help with lights on their mobile phones.
The Dnipro city government reported Sunday afternoon that at least 72 people were wounded and 43 people were reported missing. It said 39 people were rescued so far.
Ivan Garnuk was in his apartment when the building was hit and said he felt lucky to have survived. He described his shock that the Russians would strike a residential building with no strategic value.
“There are no military facilities here. There is nothing here,” he said. “There is no air defense, there are no military bases here. It just hit civilians, innocent people.”
Dnipro residents joined rescue workers at the scene to help clear the rubble. Others brought food and warm clothes for those who had lost their homes.
“This is clearly terrorism and all this is simply not human,” one local, Artem Myzychenko, said as he cleared rubble.
Claiming responsibility for the missile strikes across Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that it achieved its goal.
“All designated targets have been hit. The goal of the attack has been achieved,” a ministry statement posted on Telegram said. It said missiles were fired “on the military command and control system of Ukraine and related energy facilities,” and did not mention the attack on the Dnipro residential building.
On Sunday, Russian forces attacked a residential area in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, regional Gov. Yaroslav Yanushevych said in a Telegram post. According to preliminary information, two people were wounded.
Russia’s renewed air attacks came as fierce fighting raged in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, where the Russian military has claimed it has control of the small salt-mining town of Soledar but Ukraine asserts that its troops are still fighting.
If the Russian forces win full control of Soledar it would allow them to inch closer to the bigger city of Bakhmut. The battle for Bakhmut has raged for months, causing substantial casualties on both sides.
UK sends tanks
With the grinding war nearing the 11-month mark, Britain announced it will deliver tanks to Ukraine, the first donation of such heavy-duty weaponry. Although the pledge of 14 Challenger 2 tanks appears modest, Ukrainian officials anticipate it will trigger donations of more tanks from other Western partners.
“Sending Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine is the start of a gear change in the U.K.’s support,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said in a statement late Saturday. “A squadron of 14 tanks will go into the country in the coming weeks after the prime minister told President [Volodymyr] Zelensky that the UK would provide additional support to aid Ukraine’s land war. Around 30 AS90s, which are large, self-propelled guns, operated by five gunners, are expected to follow.”
Sunak is hoping other Western allies follow suit as part of a coordinated international effort to boost support for Ukraine in the lead-up to the 1-year anniversary of the invasion next month, according to officials.
The UK defense secretary plans to travel to Estonia and Germany this week to work with NATO allies, and the foreign secretary is scheduled to visit the US and Canada to discuss closer coordination.
Russia’s embassy in the UK swiftly issued a warning that “bringing tanks to the conflict zone, far from drawing the hostilities to a close, will only serve to intensify combat operations, generating more casualties, including among the civilian population.”
But in his evening address on Saturday, Zelensky argued that Russian “terror” could only be stopped on the battlefield.
“This can and must be done on our land, in our sky, in our sea,” he said.
Moldova, Ukraine’s southwestern neighbor, said Saturday it had found missile debris on its territory after the latest Russian strikes.
“Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine directly impacts Moldova again,” President Maia Sandu tweeted, posting photos of the wreckage.
“We strongly condemn today’s intensified attacks.”
Energy infrastructure hit
Ukraine’s energy facilities operator Ukrenergo said it was working on “eliminating the consequences” of the latest Russian strikes.
In Kyiv, AFP journalists heard several explosions, while Ukrainian officials reported strikes on a power facility.
“There is a hit to an infrastructure facility, without critical destruction or fire,” the Kyiv city administration said.
Explosions were heard in the Dniprovskyi district, a residential area on the left bank of the Dnieper River, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. Klitschko also said that fragments of a missile fell on a nonresidential area in the Holosiivskyi district on the right bank, and a fire briefly broke out in a building there. No casualties have been reported so far.
On Saturday morning, two Russian missiles hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The strikes with S-300 missiles targeted “energy and industrial objects of Kharkiv and the (outlying) region,” governor Syniehubov said. No casualties have been reported, but emergency power cuts in the city and other settlements of the region were possible, the official said.
Another infrastructure facility was hit in the western Lviv region, according to Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi.
In the city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine where fighting is most intense, three people were killed in Russian artillery attacks on Saturday, mayor Vitalii Barabash said. One person died in a rocket attack in Kryvyi Rih, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Reznichenko said.
Vitali Kim, governor of the southern Mykolaiv region, hinted in a Telegram post that some missiles have been intercepted over his province.
Emergency blackouts were applied in “most regions” of Ukraine due to the fresh barrage of attacks, energy minister German Galushchenko said Saturday.
Attacks were also reported in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.
Zelensky said Ukraine had managed to shoot down 20 of the more than 30 Russian missiles fired.
“Unfortunately, energy infrastructure facilities have been also hit,” he added, with the Kharkiv and Kyiv regions suffering the most.
Soledar’s status disputed
There was still uncertainty about the fate of Soledar, a salt mining outpost that Russia claimed to have captured, against denials from Ukraine.
Both sides have conceded heavy losses in the battle for the town.
Ukraine’s military governor in the embattled eastern region of Donetsk insisted Saturday that “Soledar is controlled by Ukrainian authorities, our military controls it.”
The “battles continue in and outside of the city,” he added.
He was responding to claims by Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday that it had “completed the liberation” of Soledar the previous day.
The industrial town with a pre-war population of about 10,000 has now been reduced to rubble through intense fighting.