The death toll from a missile strike on a five-storey apartment block in Chasiv Yar, eastern Ukraine, has reached 34 as rescue teams continued to retrieve bodies from the rubble.
According to Kyiv, the residential building was hit by Russian rockets fired from truck-borne systems late on Saturday evening.
The Ukrainian emergency services initially gave a death toll of 10, but as rescue teams continued to comb through the debris that number rose.
The latest victim, a nine-year-old, was reported to have been found around 11.30pm on Monday.
Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs said in an update late on Monday that the death toll was 33, including one child, citing state emergency services, but on Tuesday morning that number had risen to 34, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region that includes Chasiv Yar.
In an update shared to Telegram just before 9am, Kyrylenko said that as of 6.30am, employees of the state emergency service had cleared about 70% of the rubble, though the rescue operation is ongoing. “The Russians will bear responsibility for every destroyed and mutilated life,” he added.
Nine people were saved in the aftermath of the attack while Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region that includes Chasiv Yar, said about three dozen people could still be trapped in the rubble.
On Sunday evening rescuers retrieved a man who had been pinned by fallen bricks and concrete for almost 24 hours.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused Moscow of deliberately targeting civilians in the attack on Chasiv Yar. “Anyone who gives orders for such strikes, anyone who carries them out in ordinary cities, in residential areas, kills absolutely deliberately,” Zelenskiy said. “Punishment is inevitable for every Russian murderer.”
Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said the strike was “another terrorist attack” and that Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Rescue teams were shown scouring the ruins of the building, its walls completely shorn off by the impact. Cranes and excavators worked alongside emergency workers to clear away debris as front doors and balconies could be seen torn apart.
The eastern Ukrainian town is inhabited mostly by people who work in nearby factories.
It is the latest strike in a recent burst of high-casualty attacks on residential structures leaving mass civilian casualties, although Russia contends it only targets Ukrainian military operations.
Twenty-one people were killed earlier this month when an apartment building and recreation area came under rocket fire in a small southern coastal town near Odesa. Another 19 people died when a Russian missile hit a crowded shopping centre in the city of Kremenchuk in late June.
At least six people died in a Russian rocket attack on Monday morning on Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv. Another 31 people, including two children aged four and 16, were injured in the attack, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general office.
Among those killed were a father and his 17-year-old son, who were driving to pick up a certificate for his university admission, Ukrainian regional police official Serhiy Bolvinov said. The Kharkiv mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said shelling struck civilian infrastructure including a shopping centre and a tyre repair shop. These are “places which had no military significance”, he added.
Chasiv Yar, with a population of 12,000, is about 12 miles south-east of Kramatorsk, a city that is expected to be the next major target of Russian forces as they push farther westward into Donetsk after claiming victory in the adjoining Luhansk province.
Authorities are urging people to leave the region. About 80% of residents in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk had fled, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Monday.
Ukraine has also warned residents in southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to evacuate as it prepares to launch a counteroffensive to retake the area.
On Monday, Zelenskiy asked military chiefs to gather a “million-strong” fighting force equipped with western weapons to recapture its southern territory from Russia, Ukraine’s defence minister said.
“The president has given the order to the supreme military chief to draw up plans,” Oleksii Reznikov told the Times.