29 Apr 2023

25 killed in biggest Ukraine air strikes for nearly two months

7:27 am on 29 April 2023

By Sergiy Karazy and Dan Peleschuk, for Reuters

Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble of a damaged residential building in Uman, around 215km south of Kyiv, on April 28, 2023, after Russian missile strikes targeted several Ukrainian cities overnight.

Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble of a damaged residential building in Uman, around 215km south of Kyiv, on April 28, 2023, after Russian missile strikes targeted several Ukrainian cities overnight. Photo: SERGEI SUPINSKY

Russia hurled missiles at cities across Ukraine as people slept, killing at least 25 civilians in the first large-scale air strikes in nearly two months, as Kyiv said it was nearly ready to launch a huge assault to retake occupied land.

Firefighters tackled a blaze at a residential apartment hit by a Russian missile in the central town of Uman and rescue workers clambered through a huge pile of smouldering rubble, searching for survivors and bodies as anxious people stood by.

"My neighbours are gone. No one is left," said Serhii Lubivskyi, 58, who survived inside a flat on the seventh floor. He was rescued by firefighters from the balcony where he escaped with his wife after the explosion blocked their front door.

Officials said at least 23 civilians were killed, including four children, with an estimated 109 people living in the part of the block that was hit and 27 flats completely destroyed.

Lubivskyi wept as he looked up at the smouldering gaps in the building where adjacent flats had been blasted away.
"An elderly woman, her daughter and two grandchildren lived on the ninth floor. They are gone. A man with his son lived on the eighth floor. They are gone. A woman with her daughter lived on the seventh floor. They are gone. A young family lived on the sixth floor, their son was lucky ... he is alive."

In the southeastern city of Dnipro, a missile killed a two-year-old child and a 31-year-old woman, regional governor Serhiy Lysak said. Video released by the authorities showed a blackened hole where a missile had crashed through an apartment window.

Moscow said it had targeted locations of Ukrainian reserve troops and had struck them successfully, preventing them from reaching the front. It supplied no evidence to support this.

Reuters could not independently verify Moscow's accounts.

The wave of Russian missile attacks was the first since early March. Russia had launched such attacks almost weekly for most of the winter, but they tapered off as spring arrived, with Western countries saying Moscow was running out of missiles.

The capital Kyiv was also rocked by explosions in the early hours, as were the central cities of Kremenchuk and Poltava, and Mykolaiv in the south. Two people were wounded in the town of Ukrayinka just south of Kyiv, officials said.

The war is coming to a crucial juncture after a months-long Russian winter offensive that gained little ground despite the bloodiest fighting so far. Kyiv is preparing a counteroffensive using hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles sent by the West.

It wants to drive Russia out of the nearly one fifth of Ukraine that it occupies and claims to have annexed.

"As soon as there is God's will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it," Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told an online news briefing.

Ukraine was "to a high percentage ready", he said, with new modern weapons to provide an "iron fist".


Closer to the front, in Donetsk, an eastern city controlled by Russian proxies since 2014, a Russian-installed official said seven people, including a child, had been killed by Ukrainian shelling that hit a minibus.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the number of casualties or who was to blame. Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Ukrainian military said it had shot down 21 out of 23 cruise missiles fired by Russia. Moscow says it does not deliberately target civilians. Kyiv says strikes on cities far from the front lines have no military purpose apart from intimidating and harming civilians, a war crime.

"This Russian terror must face a fair response from Ukraine and the world," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote in a Telegram post alongside images of the wreckage. "And it will."

Along hundreds of kilometres of front, Russia has been fortifying its territory for months in anticipation of Kyiv's planned assault, widely expected once warmer weather dries out Ukraine's notorious sucking black mud.

Ukraine made swift gains throughout the second half of 2022, but has kept its forces on the defensive for the past five months. Russia, meanwhile, launched a huge winter campaign using hundreds of thousands of freshly called up reservists and convicts recruited as mercenaries from jail.

But despite the heaviest ground combat in Europe since World War Two, Moscow captured little additional territory, focusing mainly on the small mining city of Bakhmut where Ukrainians have withstood for almost a year.

Kyiv and its Western military backers hope a push by thousands of Ukrainian troops trained at Western bases, using hundreds of newly donated tanks and armoured vehicles, will shift the dynamics of the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree giving people living in parts of Ukraine under Moscow's control a path to Russian citizenship. It means that those who decline or who do not legalise their status could be deported.

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February last year, claiming that the Kyiv government posed a threat. Ukraine and its Western allies call it an unprovoked war of conquest.


* This story was edited inappropriately and has been corrected. RNZ is concerned and takes this matter extremely seriously. We are investigating and have taken appropriate action.

An earlier edit to this story said "Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February last year, claiming that a US-backed coup in 2014 with the help of neo-Nazis had created a threat to its borders and had ignited a civil war that saw Russian-speaking minorities persecuted." This edit has now been removed.

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