Rescue hopes fade after Russian attack on Dnipro
Ukraine saw little hope of pulling any more survivors from the rubble of an apartment block in the city of Dnipro on Sunday, a day after the building was hit during a major Russian missile attack, with dozens of people expected to have died.
The regional governor's adviser, Natalia Babachenko, said 30 people were confirmed dead so far and more than 30 were in hospital, including 12 in a serious condition. Between 30 to 40 people could still be trapped under debris, she said.
Emergency workers said they had heard people screaming for help from underneath piles of debris from the nine-storey apartment block in the east-central city and were using moments of silence to help direct their efforts. Freezing temperatures added to rescuers' concerns.
A group of firefighters found a lightly-dressed woman still alive more than 18 hours after the attack. They carried her to safety in their arms. Dozens of grim-faced residents, both young and old, watched in horror from the street.
A body was retrieved by firefighters and lifted from the ruins on a stretcher using a crane.
"The chances of saving people now are minimal," Dnipro's Mayor Borys Filatov told Reuters. I think the number of dead will be in the dozens."
The attack on Dnipro was one of the deadliest strikes of the war against civilians, and was noted for the use of a Soviet-era Kh-22 missile, which is known to be inaccurate and against which Ukraine lacks the air defences to shoot down.
Filatov said two stairwells including dozens of flats were destroyed.
Russia fired two waves of missiles at Ukraine on Saturday, striking targets across the country as fighting raged on the battlefield in the eastern towns of Soledar and Bakhmut.
Moscow, which invaded last February, has been pounding Ukraine's energy infrastructure with missiles and drones since October, causing sweeping blackouts and disruptions to central heating and running water.
In a statement on Sunday about its previous day of strikes, the Russian defence ministry did not mention Dnipro as a specific target.
"All assigned objects were hit. The targets of the strike have been achieved," it said.
Rescuers toiled through the night searching for survivors. On Sunday morning, they could be seen punching and kicking through heaped mounds of smashed concrete and twisted metal.
"Two rooms on the second floor remain practically intact but buried," Oleh Kushniruk, a deputy director of the regional branch of Ukraine's State Emergency Service, said on television.
A spokesperson for Ukraine's southern command said Russia had fired only half of the cruise missiles it had deployed to the Black Sea during Saturday's attacks.
"This indicates that they still have certain plans," said the spokesperson, Natalia Humeniuk. "We must understand that they can still be used."
APPEAL FOR MORE WEAPONS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly address on Sunday, vowed to press ahead with the rescue mission. "We are fighting for every person. The rescue operation will be conducted as long as there is even the slightest chance to save their lives," Zelenskiy said, adding that dozens of people were rescued from under the rubble, including six children.
Saturday's attack came as Western powers consider sending battle tanks to Kyiv and ahead of a meeting of Ukraine's allies in Ramstein in Germany next Friday, where governments will announce their latest pledges of military support.
On Saturday, Britain followed France and Poland with promises of further weapons, saying it would send 14 of its Challenger 2 main battle tanks as well as other advanced artillery support in the coming weeks.
The first despatch of Western-made tanks to Ukraine is likely to be viewed by Moscow as escalation of the conflict. The Russian Embassy in London said the tanks would drag out the confrontation.
Russia's invasion has already killed thousands, displaced millions and turned many cities into rubble.
In Ukraine's eastern Donbas region - the focal point of Russia's drive to capture more territory - Ukraine's forces were battling around the small salt-mining town of Soledar.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine's eastern command, told Ukrainian television that Russian forces had shelled the area around Soledar and Bakhmut 234 times in the past 24 hours.
Russia said on Friday that its forces had taken control of Soledar, which had a pre-war population of 10,000, in what would be a minor advance but one that would have psychological importance for Russian forces, who have seen months of battlefield setbacks.
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar maintained Kyiv's position that the fight for Soledar was not over.
In remarks on her Telegram channel Sunday, she noted the Ukrainian armed forces' general staff had reported repelling Russian attacks in a string of locations including Soledar and nearby Bakhmut, but also being fired upon in those same two locations and elsewhere.
"Put simply, THE BATTLE CONTINUES," she said. "Everything else is unverified information, unauthorized and without knowledge of the general picture of the front," she said.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said it was highly unlikely that Ukrainian forces still held positions within Soledar itself.
Reuters could not immediately verify the situation in the town.
Putin said what he calls the special military operation was showing a positive trend and that he hoped Russian soldiers would deliver further gains after Soledar.
"The dynamic is positive," he told Rossiya 1 state television. "Everything is developing within the framework of the plan of the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff."
Moscow provides details on latest missile strikes against Ukraine
The Russian Defense Ministry has said that the latest missile strikes against Ukraine on Saturday hit “all assigned targets.” Earlier, Kiev’s officials reported that the country’s power grid had been damaged in several regions on the same day.
“On January 14, 2023, a missile attack was carried out on the military command and control system of Ukraine and associated energy facilities. All assigned targets have been hit. The objectives have been reached,” the military said in its statement on Sunday.
Multiple strikes were reported by Ukrainian officials and media outlets on Saturday, with Energy Minister German Galushchenko claiming Russian missiles made it through to multiple energy infrastructure sites across the country. Ukraine’s largest private energy operator, DTEK, said that two of its thermal power stations came under attack. Footage circulating online suggests at least one of the facilities sustained heavy damage, with its main machinery hall destroyed.
A residential building was heavily damaged amid the strikes in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnepr (previously known as Dnepropetrovsk), according to videos published on social media. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said that some 25 civilians were killed and 73 were injured. Kiev officials have laid the blame on Moscow, but given differing accounts about what transpired.
Moscow ramped up its strikes against Kiev’s infrastructure in early October of last year, citing repeated Ukrainian sabotage on Russian soil. The attacks followed the bombing of the Crimean Bridge, which Moscow blamed on the Ukrainian military intelligence service and its Western partners. The attack was widely celebrated by top Ukrainian officials and the country’s postal service even released a commemorative stamp hours after the blast. One road section of the bridge was severely damaged, killing three civilians. However, Ukraine denied involvement.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to stop the fighting in Donbass and give Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. Brokered by Germany and France, they were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
Shortly before hostilities started, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Last September, Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, were incorporated into Russia following referendums.
** Ex-Russian president shames Japan over nuclear remarks
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has defiled the memories of the hundreds of thousands who perished in the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has claimed on Saturday.
The comments were in response to a warning issued by Kishida and US President Joe Biden, that if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine it would be an “act of hostility against humanity and unjustifiable.” The two leaders issued the statement after talks in Washington, DC on Friday.
Writing on Telegram, Medvedev, who serves as the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, described the statement as “hideous cringe.”
“I will not even comment on the paranoia over the nuclear plans of our country,”he added.
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that Moscow does not intend to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that doing so “would make neither political, nor military sense.” Under its official nuclear doctrine, Russia would only use the weapons in response to an attack with weapons of mass destruction or when there is “a threat to the existence of the state as a whole.”
Medvedev also said that Kishida was “talking nonsense about Russia in a degrading loyalist frenzy” which has led to him “betraying the memory of hundreds of thousands of Japanese who were burned in the nuclear fire of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
The former president went on to say that the Japanese PM “does not care one bit that the only country that effectively used nuclear weapons was the United States,” and “their only victim was his motherland.” He added that Kishida should demand that the US president repent for the attack, but he is just “attending personnel for Americans. And servants cannot be courageous.”
The atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively, at the end of WWII, and remains the only instance in which nuclear weapons have been used in combat. The death toll in the two blasts is estimated at 70,000 to 135,000 in Hiroshima, and 60,000 to 80,000 in Nagasaki.
** Russian Air Defense Forces down a drone over harbor in Sevastopol
Air defense systems shot down a drone over a harbor in Sevastopol, Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev said on his Telegram channel on Monday.
"Air defenses shot down a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] over a [Sevastopol] harbor. All services remain operational in a standard mode," he stated.
Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered, has been subject to several drone attacks over the past months.
The previous attempted attack of the Ukrainian forces against Sevastopol with the use of UAV’s was reported on January 7, when Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed Russian forces to introduce a ceasefire regime along the entire line of contact in the zone of the special military operation.