Strike in Ukraine kills 40; Russia has seen itself preparing for a long war

Ukrainian forces on Monday searched the remains of a home destroyed by a Russian missile in Dnipro, stuffing the bodies of one of the deadliest single attacks in the war in months into black bags and carefully carrying them up steep piles of rubble.

Authorities said the death toll from Saturday’s strike had risen to 40 and 30 people were still missing on Monday. Tall cranes swung across the craggy gaps in a row of apartment towers, engines growling as residents of one of Ukraine’s largest cities watched in largely silence under a gray cloud.

About 1,700 people lived in the multi-story building, and search and rescue teams have been working non-stop since the missile attack to locate victims and survivors in the rubble. The regional administration said 39 people were rescued and at least 75 injured.

The reported death toll is among the deadliest attacks on Ukrainian civilians since before the summer, according to The Associated Press-Frontline War Crimes Watch project. Local residents said the residential tower does not house any military facilities.

Oleksander Anyskevych said he was in his apartment when the rocket hit.

“Boom – and that’s it. We saw that we were alive and that’s all,” Anyskevych said Monday as he went to the site to inspect his destroyed apartment.

He told The Associated Press that he knew people who died under the rubble. A classmate of his son lost her parents.

Dnipro residents brought flowers, candles and toys to the ruins.

“We could all be in this place,” said local resident Iryna Skrypnyk.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called the strike and others like it “inhumane aggression” because it was aimed squarely at civilians. “There will be no impunity for these crimes,” he said in a tweet on Sunday.

Questioned after Monday’s strike, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian military is not targeting residential buildings and suggested the Dnipro Building was hit as a result of Ukrainian air defense actions.

The attack on the building came amid a broader barrage of Russian cruise missiles in Ukraine. Ukraine’s military said Sunday it did not have the means to intercept the type of Russian missile that hit the apartment building in Dnipro.

Fierce fighting continued on Monday in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, where military analysts said both sides are likely to suffer heavy troop losses. An independent review of the developments was not possible.

Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk province make up the Donbass, a sprawling industrial region on the border with Russia that Russian President Vladimir Putin identified as a flashpoint from the start of the war. Separatists supported by Moscow have been fighting Kiev’s troops there since 2014.

Russian and Belarusian air forces began a joint exercise Monday in Belarus, which borders Ukraine and served as a staging area for Russia’s February 2nd. Invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Exercises are scheduled to run until February 24. 1, said the Belarusian Ministry of Defense. Russia has sent its fighter jets to Belarus for exercises.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, reported signs the Kremlin is taking steps to turn its invasion of Ukraine into a “major conventional war” after months of embarrassing military setbacks.

What Moscow calls “a special military operation” was aimed at capturing the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within weeks and installing a pro-Kremlin regime there, but Russian forces eventually withdrew from the Kyiv area, the think tank said. Then came a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive in the last few months before the onset of winter slowed the military advance.

“The Kremlin is likely preparing to undertake decisive strategic action over the next six months aimed at regaining the initiative and ending Ukraine’s current string of operational successes,” the Institute for the Study of War said in a report late Sunday.

It noted reports that the Russian military command was in “serious preparations” for expanded mobilization, conserving mobilized personnel for future use while seeking to boost military-industrial production and transform its command structure.

This means that Ukraine’s western allies “must continue to support Ukraine in the long term,” the think tank said.

NATO member states have in recent days tried to reassure Ukraine that they will stay the course. The UK has pledged tanks and new, expanded combat training of Ukraine’s armed forces by the US military began in Germany on Sunday.

Poland’s prime minister called on the federal government to supply large quantities of weapons to Kyiv and expressed the hope that Berlin would soon agree to the transfer of main battle tanks.

Further developments on Monday:

– Russian forces shelled the city of Kherson and Kherson region, killing three people and wounding 14 others in the past 24 hours, the regional governor said. said Yaroslav Yanushevich. In the city of Kherson, shelling damaged a hospital, a children’s center for the disabled, a shipyard, vital infrastructure and homes.

– Russian forces have attacked the city of Zaporizhia, damaging industrial infrastructure and injuring five people, two of them children, reported Deputy Head of the Presidential Office of Ukraine Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

– Russian air defenses shot down 10 drones Monday over the Black Sea near the port of Sevastopol in annexed Crimea, reported Mikhail Razvozhayev, Russia’s deployed head of Sevastopol.

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