Russia unleashed what is believed to have been the deadliest attack on Ukrainian civilians in months on Friday, killing at least 23 people in an early-morning missile strike on an apartment block in the city of Uman.
The attack, which drew international condemnation, came around 4 a.m. local time, when a barrage of long-range cruise missiles was launched from Russian aircraft in the Caspian Sea area, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. Twenty-one of the 23 missiles were intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses, it claimed.
But missiles hit the central Ukrainian cities of Uman, in the Cherkasy region, and Dnipro. In Uman, a small city around 125 miles south of the capital Kyiv – and some 200 miles from the front line – two rockets hit three high-rise buildings, which included residential buildings and a warehouse.
Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Ihor Klymenko said there were 46 apartments inside one of the buildings that was hit, of which 27 were completely destroyed. He added that it may take a day to clear all the rubble.
At least four children were among the dead in Uman, according Ukraine’s interior ministry. Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said earlier on Twitter that two children killed there couldn’t be identified, and the fate of their parents was unknown.
In Dnipro, two people were killed: a mother and her young child.
Another 18 people were injured in the Uman strike, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said in a statement on Facebook on Saturday.
Rescuers combing through the rubble saved at least 17 people, according to the emergency service, which sent at least 106 personnel and 27 vehicles to the site.
More than 10 apartment buildings and pieces of civil infrastructure were damaged in the missile strike early Friday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
The Uman strike – by a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile – is thought to have caused the highest number of civilian casualties in a single incident since a missile struck an apartment block in Dnipro in January.
Several bodies were pulled out while a CNN team was at the scene. An eyewitness said he heard women and children screaming when he arrived at the building. A woman was taken to hospital, but later died, he said.
CNN also spoke to a local woman, Liuda, whose friend lived on the eighth floor. When she heard the building had been hit, Liuda rushed there to find that her friend had survived, but her friend’s husband had been hospitalized and their two daughters, aged 7 and 13, were still missing.
A woman named Arina, who lives on the ninth floor of an apartment building next to the one that collapsed, told CNN that she immediately threw her son and daughter into the bathroom and covered them with pillows when the attack happened. She described how the noise was so loud she didn’t think that they would survive.
Her voice cracked as she told CNN how the strikes had shaken the small community and left her feeling terrified.
Local residents told CNN that there hadn’t been a strike of this scale on the city since March last year.
A school next door to the apartment block has been transformed into a gathering place for the families. The building has already been filled with humanitarian aid including clothing, food and blankets.
In Dnipro, Ukrainian authorities said a 31-year-old woman was killed along with her 2-year-old child.
Serhii Lysak, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, said the woman had “moved to her parents’ house because of the war. She thought it would be safer… But now it’s in ashes.” The woman’s parents are both in hospital, Lysak said.
France condemned “in the strongest terms the renewed strikes carried out last night by Russia on Ukrainian territory,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.
The statement highlighted the Russian forces’ deliberate targeting of residential buildings in Uman which “resulted in a heavy toll of civilian casualties, including children.”
“Such targeting of Ukrainian infrastructure and civilian populations underlines Russia’s clear desire to continue escalating its war of aggression in Ukraine,” the ministry said.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna stressed that France will continue to provide support to the Ukrainian courts and to the International Criminal Court “in order to fight against impunity” for Russian war crimes.