Dozens of first responders scrambled through the wreckage of the apartment building, searching for survivors. Rescue workers battled the smoke billowing from the flattened multi-story building and climbed ladders through debris several stories high.
At least 64 were injured in the attack, according to the regional governor, including a dozen children. One of them, a nine-year-old girl, was in critical condition on Saturday.
The toll could be significantly higher, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, suggested in a Telegram post. Up to 200 people, including 50 children, lived in apartments in the destroyed entrance, he said. More than a thousand residents may need emergency shelter.
Earlier, residents of Kiev were awakened by explosions in what the Ukrainian air force said was “most likely” a ballistic missile attack. Due to Ukraine’s inability to detect ballistic missiles, residents of Kiev did not hear sirens until after the attack. The city’s mayor said rocket fragments hit a non-residential part of the city and started a fire that claimed no casualties.
The Ukrainian air force said it shot down 25 of the 38 missiles launched in Saturday’s strike. But missiles hit energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, Kiev, Zaporizhzhia and other regions, prompting Ukraine to introduce emergency shutdowns “in most regions,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said in a Facebook post.
“The new days will be difficult,” he added.
Lviv regional administration chief Maksym Kozytsksyy said about 40 percent of the region, or about 300,000 homes, were without power.
The attack came as Britain confirmed plans to send heavy battle tanks to Ukraine, in response to a long-standing request from Kiev, as the fight against the Russian invasion approaches the year and shows no signs of abating.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call Saturday that his country would provide Challenger 2 tanks and additional artillery systems, according to a press release from 10 Downing Street.
The announcement marks a significant escalation in military aid to Ukraine’s armed forces, which are seeking to take back more territory and fend off a potential spring offensive from Russia. Western allies had previously held back, partly for fear of provoking a wider confrontation with Russia.
It is unclear how many tanks Britain will send and when they will arrive. Earlier reports indicated that Britain would hand over about 10 tanks.
The move is “entirely symbolic,” said retired Colonel Mark Cancian, a senior adviser in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ International Security Program. “Britain only has about 250 of those tanks, so it can’t send many without seriously weakening its own forces.”
But Ukraine hopes the move will encourage other allies to follow suit. In particular, Kiev has been looking for German-made Leopard 2 tanks, of which there are more than 2,000 scattered across Europe.
“Always strong support from the UK is now impenetrable,” Zelensky said tweeted on Saturday, adding that he had thanked Sunak “for the decisions that will not only strengthen us on the battlefield, but also send the right signal to other partners.”
The Russian embassy in London warned that the move “would only serve to intensify combat operations” and that the tanks would become “legitimate large-scale targets”.
Sunak’s announcement came a week after the United States, Germany and France agreed to send advanced infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.
How Western combat vehicles on their way to Ukraine can change the war
Ukrainian officials expressed their gratitude for those incoming vehicles, but also asked for heavy tanks. The Kiev armed forces have so far used Soviet-era tanks such as the T-64 and T-72.
Since Ukrainian forces recaptured large swaths of territory from Russia in large-scale counter-offensives this fall, the war has essentially come to a standstill along a frontline stretching hundreds of miles across eastern and southern Ukraine. Russia on Friday claimed it had captured Soledar, a small salt mining town in the Donetsk region – in what would be its first major territorial gain in several months. But the Ukrainian army said fighting is still going on.
Those ground battles for territory are separate from the punishing rocket attacks Russia has unleashed on cities under Ukrainian control, which have reduced homes and hospitals to rubble. Many of those attacks targeted critical energy infrastructure, plunging millions of Ukrainians into the cold and darkness as winter arrived. Ukrainian authorities have described the wave of attacks as a terror campaign.
In a televised speech Saturday night, Zelensky said the only way to stop “Russian terror” was through “the weapons that are in our partners’ warehouses and that our troops are so waiting for.”
The Challenger 2 is the main battle tank of the British Army. Designed to destroy other armored vehicles, the tank features heavy armor and a 120mm rifled tank gun, as well as a 7.62mm chain gun and a separately mounted machine gun. The British Army used it in military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.
The tank is built to traverse open terrain, which could be especially useful in the fields of eastern Ukraine. It is capable of making strong, rapid advances that shock enemy forces.
“With NATO-type tanks, we will go to victory much faster,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a statement on the ministry’s Telegram channel.
However, analysts say the Challenger 2 can be difficult to use and maintain.
The tanks “would present quite a few logistical challenges for the Ukrainians because these are very heavy vehicles,” said Sonny Butterworth, an analyst with Janes, the intelligence agency. “They’re going to have to be able to properly support these vehicles in the field or they won’t be able to deploy them where they need to go.”
To further complicate matters, the Challenger 2 uses a rifled gun that deviates from the NATO standard.
Poland indicated on Wednesday that it plans to transfer a company of Leopard 2s to Ukraine as part of a wider package backed by an international coalition. But the re-export of the German-made tanks requires approval from Berlin, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has not yet granted.
Poland urges allies to join in and send Leopard tanks to Ukraine
The United States is equally hesitant. “We absolutely agree that Ukraine needs tanks,” Laura Cooper, the US deputy defense secretary, told reporters earlier this month. But she expressed concern about the ability of Ukrainian troops to care for Abram’s tanks.
“We are sure that the Abrams tank is not only a gas guzzler, but also very challenging to maintain,” she said.
Sunak told Zelensky he and his government would work “intensely” with international partners to send more military aid, the Downing Street statement said. Defense ministers from dozens of countries are meeting on Friday for a meeting of the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Germany, where they will discuss Ukraine’s defense needs.
Stern reported from Mukachevo. Parker reported from Washington. Andrea Salcedo, Ellen Francis, Francesca Ebel and Stefanie Le contributed to this report.
War in Ukraine: what you need to know
The last: Russia claimed on Friday to have taken control of Soledar, a hotly contested salt mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged in recent days, but a Ukrainian military official insisted the battle was not over.
Russian guess: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western attempts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior US, Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.
Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the scene since the beginning of the war – here’s some of their most impressive work.
How you can help: Here are ways people in the US can support the Ukrainian people, as well as what people around the world have donated.
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