By Paul Adams in Dnipro and Alexandra Fouché in London
Russia launched fresh waves of missile attacks across Ukraine on Saturday, killing at least nine people in a strike on an apartment block in the eastern city of Dnipro.
A number of other cities, including Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa, were also hit.
Much of Ukraine is now under an emergency blackout after missiles hit power infrastructure in several cities.
Earlier, the UK said it would send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine to help the country’s defence.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Challengers, the British army’s main battle tank, would help Kyiv’s forces “push Russian troops back”.
Russia responded by saying that providing more weapons to Ukraine would lead to intensified Russian operations and more civilian casualties.
Later on Saturday – a day when Ukrainians celebrate the Old (or Orthodox) New Year – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian attacks on civilian targets could be stopped only if Ukraine’s Western partners supplied necessary weapons.
“What is needed for this? Those weapons which are in the depots of our partners and which our soldiers are waiting for so much,” he said in his nightly video address, adding that his forces shot down more than 20 out of 30 Russian missiles fired at Ukraine.
In what is likely to be the worst attack in months, the attack in Dnipro struck the entrance of a nine-story building, reducing several floors to smoldering rubble and injuring 64 people, including 14 children, according to Ukrainian officials.
At the scene of the strike, a sizable crowd gathered to observe the rescue operation while others joined rescue workers in their frantic search for survivors. There were frantic calls, volunteer human chains removing debris, and torch beams piercing dense dust and smoke.
Zelensky stated in his speech that debris removal in Dnipro would go on all night long because “we are fighting for every person, every life.” According to officials, 37 people have so far been rescued from the building, including six kids.
Since the apartment complex is some distance from the closest power source, it is unclear why it was the target of such destruction.
This could have been one of Russia’s less accurate missiles or something brought down by Ukraine’s air defenses, although on the surface, this seems a less likely explanation on a day when Russia seemed intent, once again, on targeting Ukraine’s energy grid.
The most recent Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power grid occurred two weeks ago. Regarding the energy infrastructure facilities damaged on Saturday, Mr. Zelensky stated that the Kharkiv and Kyiv regions were in the most difficult situation.
Up until midnight local time, all regions had 24-hour consumption caps, according to Ukrenergo, the national energy company of Ukraine.
Russian officials’ “energy war” may be coming to an end, officials in the West and in Ukraine have begun to speculate. This is because there may be a shortage of suitable missiles and because it is clear that the strategy hasn’t yet succeeded in breaking Ukraine’s spirit.
The attacks on Saturday indicate Moscow continues to believe it is a strategy worth using.