No fewer than 18 people were killed and 64 others injured in a deadly Russian missile strike that hit a high-rise apartment block in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Saturday, local authorities said, as Kiev praised a pledge by Britain to send battle tanks.
Twelve children were among the injured in the strike that destroyed 72 flats, Valentyn Reznichenko, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, wrote on Telegram, as rescue workers pulled people from the rubble of the partially collapsed building.
Consequently, over 1,000 were relocated.
Trapped residents were signalling their location under the debris with their mobile phone torches, according to a spokesperson from the Ukrainian emergency workers.
Recovery efforts were to continue all night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said later in his nightly video address.
The Kiev city government says work was ongoing to restore power supplies. In all, there were power cuts in six areas of the country.
Earlier, the presidential office in Kiev released photos and videos of the Dnipro building in ruins.
The head of the office, Andriy Yermak, vented his anger: “Russians are terrorists will be punished for everything. Everyone – without exception.”
Zelensky condemned the “Russian terror.” Referring to the rescue operations, he said: “We are fighting for every person, for every life.”
After isolated Russian missile attacks in the morning, Moscow significantly intensified the shelling of several regions on Saturday, prompting an air raid warning to be issued for the entire country.
Besides Dnipro, other areas hit include Odessa in the south, Kharkiv in the east, Lviv in the west and the capital Kiev. Civilian infrastructure, including electricity sites, were once again damaged and power outages were reported.
The Ukrainian military said that 25 of 38 Russian missiles were shot down on Saturday.
These were the first major missile attacks since the start of the new year.
Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian Air Force had warned of possible new attacks, saying numerous long-range Tupolev Tu-95 bombers were in the air.
In addition, Russian warships had taken up positions in the Black Sea, from which missiles were also repeatedly fired.
In his evening address, Zelensky also thanked Britain for being the first country to provide battle tanks for Ukraine after London promised for the first time to supply Kiev with Challenger 2 battle tanks.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered the pledge in a conversation with Zelensky.
A British government spokeswoman said Sunak offered the tanks and additional artillery systems as a sign of London’s “ambition to intensify our support to Ukraine.”
Sunak also welcomed similar announcements of battlefield support for Kiev, including Poland’s recent promise to provide a company of Leopard battle tanks.
Heavy battle tanks are considered vital to recapturing occupied territories.
So far, however, Ukraine has received only Soviet-made tanks that were in the inventory of Eastern European NATO countries.
Ukraine has long demanded that Berlin send its Leopard II battle tanks, which are technically superior to Russian tanks.
Zelensky demanded more weapons from the West, saying the Ukrainian army is waiting for them and they would enable his troops to fight off Russian terror.
The German government, however, has so far refused to give way, despite pressure from Kiev, NATO allies and members of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s own three-way coalition.
The German government has long refused to take this step, in the past saying other allies had not handed over modern battle tanks either as well as referring to concerns that NATO could be drawn even deeper into the war.
The new offer from Britain, which came after Warsaw’s promise and an earlier pledge by France to send “light” tanks, will once again force Scholz to defend his position.
So far, the farthest Scholz has been willing to go is an agreement to send some 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles. Berlin has also provided heavy tank howitzers and anti-aircraft systems.
Russia holds about 18 per cent of Ukraine’s territory – including Crimea, which was annexed in 2014 – more than 10 months after the beginning of its invasion.
In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said additional members of the British government, representatives of security structures and media had been added to Russia’s sanctions list because of London’s continuation of an “anti-Russian course.”
The statement showed 36 names were added to the list that was created in April, including British Foreign Minister James Cleverly and Chief of General Staff Patrick Sanders.