Hundreds of civilians gathered on the scene on Sunday, shaken by the attack on Dnipro, which has been known as a relatively safe haven for the past nearly 11 months. Some pleaded with Western countries to speed up the delivery of additional weapons and help protect Ukrainians from more unpredictable airstrikes.
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“How many other people have to die before the world sees us?” asked Aziza Nosenko, 30, a baker who handed out sandwiches on Sunday evenings to volunteer rescuers who were digging through the remains of the apartment building.
“We are full of anger and disappointment,” said her boyfriend, Oleksandra Ratushna, 33.
The commander of the Ukrainian Air Force, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk, said in a statement that Russia fired five long-range KH-22 missiles on Saturday, the warheads of which weigh more than 2,000 pounds each. The missiles can fly as far as 370 miles and the one that hit the Dnipro building came from Russia’s Kursk region, he said.
“Only anti-aircraft missile systems, which can be delivered to Ukraine by Western partners in the future, are capable of intercepting these air targets,” he said, citing the US Patriot system and the French SAMP/T system as examples.
Zelensky said on Saturday that “[n]o amount of persuasion or plain pastime will stop the terrorists methodically murdering our people.
“The whole world knows what can stop and how it is possible to stop those who sow death,” he said.
The United States announced last month that it would send its Patriot missile system to Ukraine as part of a $2 billion arms package. It will contain one Patriot battery, which is equipped with up to eight launchers. Each can accommodate between four and 16 missiles. The announcement was a coup for Zelensky, who had long called for the system. But it is expected to take several months, largely because it requires specific training of Ukrainian troops on how to use the specialized equipment.
Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime under international law, which has not stopped Russian forces from aerially attacking residential buildings, hospitals and schools and killing unarmed civilians on the ground since February’s invasion of Ukraine. places like Bucha and other cities they occupied. President Biden and other world leaders have vowed to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for war crimes as Ukrainian prosecutors try to build their own cases city by city. Thousands of specific allegations are being investigated.
Experts have warned that it could be years before someone in a decision-making position is held accountable, if ever.
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Strikes hit several other parts of the country on Saturday, and explosions were heard in Kiev before the air raid siren went off, which officials said was due to the inability of their existing air defense system to detect such attacks. Some missiles hit power infrastructure, causing power outages.
On Sunday morning, dozens of residents of the destroyed building lined up in front of a blue tent across the street, waiting to report for help.
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An apocalyptic scene played out behind them, as firefighters and other rescuers continued to dig into the massive mess that had been their home the day before – using both construction equipment and their hands to find the missing.
A woman, trapped on the fourth floor of what remained of part of the building, was rescued after a worker dug a hole in the rubble with his hands and then removed his helmet to put his head through and her to identify.
There was so little space to pull her out that he had to carefully hand her over the edge of the building to another worker, her neck in a brace. In the end, they put her on a stretcher and took her to the hospital.
She wore only black pants and a black tank top after surviving the night in freezing temperatures, but was conscious when they pulled her to safety.
A Ukrainian Orthodox priest, Mikhail Stinyo, 39, held a service for the dead and missing at his nearby church on Sunday. “We pray for the missing. We hope they are found alive,” he said.
His church is willing to organize free funerals for victims of the attack, which he described as “Russian terrorism”.
Rescue workers and civilians who saw him outside the destroyed building on Sunday turned to him for guidance and prayer, he said.
After a long night, “a lot of people are emotionally exhausted,” he said.
Arseniy Aivazian, 30, who heard the bang on the other side of town on Saturday and came to the site of the attack to volunteer on Sunday, said he understood “that our air defense cannot shoot down these missiles.”
“We want the whole world to help,” he said. “We are not just fighting for our own freedom. We fight against terrorism.”
Oleh Nemyrovskyi, 31, whose parents live nearby, said Ukrainians are “waiting” for air defenses that can protect them from such carnage.
“Maybe if we had new patriots or something like that, we’d have a chance to shoot [these missiles] down,” he said.
His three-year-old daughter, Sofia, sat on his shoulders in a yellow snowsuit and a unicorn hat, staring at the wreckage.
“She says a dinosaur brought down the building,” he said. “She doesn’t understand the situation.”
Behind the building, volunteers continued to distribute hot drinks and food to families displaced by the blast. Andriy Vanzha, 43, and his wife Svetlana, 42, were among those queuing to receive temporary mattresses. They live in the adjoining building and although their apartment was not damaged, the police have banned them from entering the site because a support beam is in danger of collapsing.
They were at home during the strike, leaving them shocked.
“I want the world to see how inhumane they are and let’s hope the world doesn’t let us down,” Vanzha said. “We very much hope that the Americans will give us more air defense.”
Two trained rescuers, Natalya, 36, and Mykola, 53, who had been on the ground almost non-stop since the previous day, stood behind the smoking ruin waiting for their next instructions to scramble inside.
They said they had recovered eight bodies from the wreckage so far that day. Unlike the day before, when they found many survivors, on Sunday they were mainly engaged in exhuming the dead.
Still, they hoped that some people were in the basement and could be buried under the rubble, but still alive.
“The scariest thing is not knowing,” Mykola said.
“It’s better if you know that everyone has died or everyone is going to the hospital,” added Natalya.
For her, the mission had become personal. Hours after she began digging people out of the collapsed building on Saturday, she discovered her 12-year-old son’s teacher was one of the captives.
Earlier that day, the teacher, her husband and their 16-year-old daughter had gone to the apartment complex to visit friends. Now they were all gone.
“I hope maybe they went down to the basement,” Natalya said. “His whole class is very concerned.”
Were they willing to be the ones to find the family?
“We have to turn off our emotions,” Mykolo replied.
Natalya just shook her head.
Wojciech Grzedzinski contributed to this report.
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