Russia unleashed a new wave of major attacks on Ukraine on Saturday, hitting energy infrastructure across the country and killing at least 12 people in a missile strike on a nine-storey apartment building in the city of Dnipro, officials said.
Rescue teams toiled through the night in freezing temperatures in the aftermath of the Dnipro attack, with local officials saying people were still alive underneath the massive pile of wreckage.
“They keep sending SMS-es,” Mikhailo Lysenko, deputy mayor of Dnipro, said in a social media video. “We stop our work now and then to keep silence and we hear people scream from underneath the rubble.”
Russian strikes also hit critical infrastructure in Kyiv and other places, with Ukraine’s energy minister saying the coming days would be “difficult” with threats to the supply of electricity, running water and central heating at the height of winter.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the number of those killed in the Dnipro apartment attack was likely to rise and he issued a fresh appeal to his Western allies for more weaponry to end “Russian terror” and attacks on civilian targets.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink and Kyiv’s other allies condemned Saturday’s Russian attacks.
“More security assistance is coming to help Ukraine defend itself,” Brink said on Twitter, calling the strike on Dnipro “horrifying.”
Dozens rescued from building
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Zelenskyy’s office, said 37 people had been rescued from the building and a total of 64 were injured. Zelenskyy said the second to ninth floors of the building’s damaged section had collapsed.
Pictures posted on Dnipro Mayor Borys Filatov’s Telegram account showed residents with no equipment desperately removing what remained of a wrecked car and combing through rubble against the background of a large pile of metal and concrete. Wounded people were carried away on stretchers.
“You used to come to our city! We treated you as normal people, as relatives. What have you done to my son?” a woman, restrained by rescuers, shrieked in a video from the scene.
Another person was killed and one wounded in the steel-making city of Kryvyi Rih, where six houses were damaged in Zelenskyy’s hometown, Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul said.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy appealed to the West to supply more weapons and repeated Kyiv’s stance that the only way to end the war was on the battlefield.
“What’s needed for this? The kind of weapons that our partners have in stockpiles and that our warriors have come to expect. The whole world knows what and how to stop those who are sowing death,” he said.
Britain to supply tanks
With Russia’s invasion in its 11th month, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday confirmed it plans to send some Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, along with additional artillery support, his office said.
During a phone call with Zelenskyy, the two leaders “agreed on the need to seize on this moment with an acceleration of global military and diplomatic support to Ukraine,” a spokesperson for Sunak said.
A statement from Sunak’s Downing Street office did not say how many tanks were involved or when they were to be delivered.
Saturday’s attack also comes ahead of a meeting of Ukraine’s allies in Ramstein, Germany, next Friday, when governments will announce their latest pledges of military support.
Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, has been pounding its energy infrastructure with missiles and drones since October, causing sweeping blackouts and disruptions to central heating and running water.
Ukraine on Saturday shot down 25 of 38 Russian missiles of different types, the air force said.
Missiles struck infrastructure in Kharkiv in the east and Lviv in the west, officials said. Zelenskyy said Kyiv region and Kharkiv regions had suffered the worst power disruptions.
Moldova’s Interior Ministry said missile debris had been found in the north of the country near the Ukraine border following the airstrikes.
“We strongly condemn today’s intensified attacks of Russia and stand with those who lost loved ones in Dnipro and across Ukraine,” Moldovan President Maia Sandu said on Twitter. “Peace must prevail.”
Status of salt town disputed
The attacks come amid conflicting reports on the fate of the fiercely contested salt mining town of Soledar, in Ukraine’s embattled east. Russia claims that its forces have captured the town, a development that would mark a rare victory for the Kremlin after a series of humiliating setbacks on the battlefield.
Ukrainian authorities and Zelenskyy insist the fight for Soledar continues.
Moscow has painted the battle for the town and the nearby city of Bakhmut as key to capturing the eastern region of the Donbas, which comprises the partially occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and as a way to grind down the best Ukrainian forces and prevent them from launching counterattacks elsewhere.
But that cuts both ways, as Ukraine says its fierce defence of the eastern strongholds has helped tie up Russian forces. Western officials and analysts say the two towns’ importance is more symbolic than strategic.
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