Ukraine: death toll rises from Russian missile strike on Dnipro

Rescue workers continue to look for survivors from Saturday’s strike on apartment building

The death toll from Saturday’s Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 40, as rescue workers continued to sift through the mountain of concrete in the hope of finding survivors.

At least 30 people are still missing and a further 75 injured, according to local authorities, after the building was split in two with its middle reduced to rubble.

One of the dead was boxing coach Mykhailo Korenovskyi, the only member of his family who had been home at the time. A family friend posted a video of the family celebrating a child’s birthday in their apartment alongside a picture from after the attack of the kitchen, which is missing an entire wall.

According to a CNN report, the last rescue took place shortly after midnight on Saturday. It took nine hours to reach the person and they had severe hypothermia.

Andriy Ivanyutin, who owns one of the apartments that was destroyed in the attack, said his tenants were a couple who had fled fighting in the eastern Donetsk province, their children, and one of their mothers. “The family go to church on Sundays but this time they went on Saturday … thankfully they were not home … but their mother was,” said Ivanyutin. He said the mother was still missing.

Among the survivors was a husband and wife who had fled Kherson for Dnipro. The husband used a flashlight to draw rescuers’ attention while applying pressure to his wife’s wounds.

The attack has prompted an outpouring of support from Dnipro’s residents. The nearby village of Voloske, outside Dnipro city, has said it is willing to shelter those made homeless “for as long as necessary”, offering to pay for taxi fares on arrival.

Ukraine’s deputy minister of defence, Hanna Maliar, said an X-22 Russian missile hit the building. The anti-ship cruise missile is about 11 metres long, almost 1 metre in diameter and weighs about 5,600kg.

Ukraine’s air defence forces said in a statement after the Dnipro attack that they do not have the equipment to shoot down X-22 missiles.

An attacker earlier on Saturday used anti-aircraft guided missiles flying along a ballistic trajectory, which are also capable of evading Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defence systems, according to a statement by the force.

After months of pleas from the Ukrainians, the US agreed to deliver the powerful Patriot air defence systems which, although not foolproof, are capable of shooting down cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and aircraft. The US had been reluctant to do so as it feared Russia would see the delivery as an escalation. It will also take time for Ukrainian soldiers to learn how to use the systems.

Ukrainian officials acknowledged there was little hope of finding anyone alive in the rubble, but the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said rescue efforts in the central Ukrainian city would go on “as long as there is even the slightest chance to save lives”.

Zelenskiy also thanked public figures who spoke out about the attack and “did not remain indifferent”.

Sweden, holder of the EU presidency, on Monday described the attack as a war crime.

“The Swedish government condemns in the strongest terms Russia’s continuing systemic attacks against civilians … in Ukraine, including Saturday’s missile strike on an apartment block in Dnipro,” Ulf Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister, told reporters, calling it a “horrific attack”.

“Intentional attacks against civilians are war crimes. Those responsible will be held to account,” he said, speaking at a joint press conference in Stockholm with the European Council president, Charles Michel.

The Kremlin has denied responsibility for the attack, and has pointed to an unsubstantiated theory circulating on social media that Ukrainian air defence systems had caused the damage.

“The Russian armed forces do not strike residential buildings or social infrastructure. They strike military targets,” the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

• This article was amended on 20 January 2023 to describe the X-22 as a cruise missile, rather than a ballistic missile.


Isobel Koshiw in Kyiv

The GuardianTramp

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