DNIPRO, Ukraine – Two hours after a Russian missile slammed into a Ukrainian apartment complex on Saturday, shocking the city that has served as a relatively safe haven for war-displaced people, rescue teams digging through the rubble They detected a sudden movement from above.
On the eighth floor, they could see the arm of a bloody old womanso buried by rubble that she could barely move, waving a piece of red cloth. Beneath her, dozens of apartments had collapsed.swallowing residents in about 30 feet of rubble.
From inside the damaged building, she was seen alive and asking for help.
The flagrant Russian attack against the civilian population – the worst to hit this city since Russia invaded Ukraine last February – came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin named his top military officer, General Valery Gerasimov, the new overseer of his ruthless war in Ukraine.
The attack, which coincided with the orthodox new yearserved as gloomy message that Putin’s close confidant likely to continue violent missile attacks on civilian targets that have become a hallmark of the Russian assault. The shelling, part of a wave of attacks across Ukraine on Saturday, could have destroyed up to 30 apartments in the sprawling complex, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, sharing a video of the destruction.
Residents were trapped as flames engulfed part of the structure, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said on Telegram.
more than 20 people died in the apartment building on Saturday, and at least 60 others were injured. By nightfall, at least 38 people had been rescued, he said. It is believed that there are many more buried among the ruins. . As the city approached the midnight curfew, Dogs wearing special shoes to protect themselves from injury scaled the pile of rubble, sniffing for survivors. To one side, the dead lay on the floor in white bags, wrapped in red and white tape.
The living, hundreds of them, appeared out of the dark, as they do in so many Ukrainian cities on so many nights, to clean up and deliver hot food and drinks.
Although Russian missiles hit other Ukrainian cities on Saturday, none caused anything close to the extent of the damage in Dnipro. The attack was an exceptional shock because Dnipro has been a kind of refuge. Many displaced people, coming from places like the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, or the front-line regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, have moved here in search of safety and normality.
“We no longer have safe spaces in Ukrainesaid Maksym Chornyi, 32, who volunteered to help rescue people at the scene. “It is necessary that Europe also be clear, because these rockets can also fall there.”
Chornyi was at home on the other side of Dnipro on Saturday afternoon when he heard the attack, so powerful it sent shock waves through much of the city.
He rushed to the scene, where he climbed through the rubble to search for survivors with no more protection than a mask to protect himself from the smoke that hung in the air. After several hours, the rescue teams asked him and other volunteers to move back so they could bring heavy machinery into the area and continue digging. He backed away from him, his face obscured by soot.
What he saw in the rubble was a nightmare.
At one point, he heard screams and thought they were coming from below. She then realized that she was the woman trapped on the eighth floor, which she told the rescuers that her name was Lyuba. Later, she looked up and realized that a dead man hung on the other side of the building, his intestines ripped from the body.
Right next door, “there was blood smeared on the wall,” Chornyi said. “I feel terrible”.
Shortly before 8pm, rescuers pulled Lyuba out of the wreckage of her home and slowly lowered her to the ground on a yellow stretcher. She lay silent as they wrapped her in a blanket of aluminum foil.
One of the workers who lowered her kissed her and leaned over her. “I promised that I would save you and I have“, Told him. “Everything is going to be alright.” They then took her away in an ambulance.
One of the Ukrainian Red Cross doctors who helped bring her to safety said he believed that both legs were broken. She had her face covered in blood.
When asked what message she wanted to send to the world after this attack, the doctor, who gave her name only as Natalya, 36, did not hesitate.
“stop russia“, said.
Nadya Yaroshenko’s son, Rostyslav, 12-year-old, was alone in his third-floor apartment when the missile hit. He called her mother in fear and asked her how she could run away.
“There are no stairs,” he told her. With much of the building destroyed, she crawled to the elevator and waited for help to arrive.
His friends pushed the rescuers, yelling that there was a child trapped inside. Then one scaled the building and pulled him out a window, unharmed.
Hours later, the family was still waiting for some sign of his missing cat and dog. Then his neighbor, Andriy Filkovich, called with good news. “Nadya, the bitch is by my side with her savior. Where are you?” he said.
A firefighter returned the shivering dachshund, named Cola, to Yaroshenko, who wrapped her in his arms. “You were so scared,” he cooed. “Do not be afraid”. His cat, Bilyash, whose blue and yellow eyes match the Ukrainian flag, was still missing.
© The Washington Post 2023
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