Russia launched a fresh barrage of rockets at targets across Ukraine, killing at least 12 people in the east-central city of Dnipro and cutting power to the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions, officials said.
Saturday’s attacks tore through a nine-story apartment block in Dnipro, reducing an entire section of the building to rubble and sending smoke into the sky. The deaths include that of a 15-year-old girl, according to officials.
About 64 others were also injured.
“Tragedy!” said Boris Filatov, mayor of the rocket-making city on the Dnieper River.
“I went to the site. … We will walk through the rubble all night.
Photos from the scene showed firefighters putting out flames around the bodies of several cars in Dnipro. Much of the apartment block was missing, while the exterior of the rest of the building was badly damaged.
Trapped residents signaled their location under the debris with the torches of their cellphones, according to Ukrainian media reports.
“They keep sending text messages,” Mykhailo Lysenko, the deputy mayor of Dnipro, said in a video on social media. “Every now and then we stop our work to keep quiet and we hear people screaming from under the rubble.”
Regional Governor Valentin Reznichenko said seven children were among the injured, the youngest being three years old.
“The fate of 26 people is still unknown,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was not yet known how many were under the rubble.
“Unfortunately, the death toll is rising every hour,” he said in his nightly address.
Besides Dnipro, other cities affected on Saturday included Odesa in the south, Kharkiv in the east, Lviv in the west and the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Civil infrastructure, including electrical facilities, was again damaged and power outages were reported.
Emergency power cuts were implemented in “most regions” of Ukraine on Saturday because of the attacks, Energy Minister German Galushchenko said.
He warned that the coming days would be “difficult”.
Officials said Kharkiv region had completely lost power and that power and water outages were possible in Lviv.
Russia has been attacking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with missiles and drones since October, causing massive blackouts and disruptions to central heating and running water.
Senior commander Valery Zaluzhny said Russia fired a total of 33 cruise missiles on Saturday, of which 21 were shot down.
Britain promises tanks
Moldova, Ukraine’s southwestern neighbor, said it had found missile debris on its territory following the latest Russian strikes.
“Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine directly affects Moldova again,” President Maja Sandu tweeted, posting photos of the wreckage.
“We strongly condemn today’s intensified attacks.”
In his overnight speech, Zelensky called on the West to supply more weapons to prevent further deaths from what he described as “Russian terror”.
“What does it take? The kind of weapons that our partners have in their stocks and that our warriors expect. The whole world knows what and how to stop those who sow death,” he said.
Saturday’s attack comes as Western powers consider sending heavy weaponry to Kyiv and ahead of a meeting of Ukraine’s allies in Ramstein, Germany next Friday, where governments will announce their latest pledges of military support.
The United Kingdom on Saturday became the first Western country to pledge heavy tanks to the war effort, with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak saying his country would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Sunak’s office said the British prime minister believed “a long and static war only serves Russia’s interests.”
“UK defense and security officials believe a window has opened in which Russia is taking a back seat due to supply problems and a sharp drop in morale,” the statement said. “The Prime Minister is therefore encouraging Allies to deploy their planned support for 2023 as soon as possible to have maximum impact.”
Saturday’s attacks came as Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed control of Soledara small salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine that has been at the center of a relentless Russian assault for days.
The capture of Soledar, which had a pre-war population of 10,000, could improve the position of Russian forces as they move toward their main objective since October, the nearby transport crossroads of Bakhmut.
Russia said on Friday that its forces had taken control of the city, but Ukraine denied the claim.
Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from near Soledar, said there were no obvious signs of a Ukrainian withdrawal from the town.
“Russia claims it has taken full control of Soledar, but smoke rising from the impact sites, explosions from near-constant artillery and heavy machine-gun fire suggest otherwise,” he said.
Along the streets leading to Soledar, army medics waited at intervals to take the wounded to hospitals away from the front lines, Stratford said. Ukrainian armored personnel carriers were seen ferrying troops towards the city, while the trees were filled with artillery in defensive positions.
One soldier called for better weapons.
“It will be difficult for us to fend them off,” he told Al Jazeera. “We will suffer great losses. They move in such large numbers that sometimes our old guns overheat as we try to shoot as many as we can.
Turkey said on Saturday it was ready to push for a local ceasefire in Ukraine and warned that neither Moscow nor Kyiv had the military means to “win the war”.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign policy adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, admitted it appeared unlikely the warring parties would be ready to reach a “comprehensive peace deal” in the coming months.
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