Russian missile destroys Ukrainian apartment building; at least 3 dead


KRAMATORSK, Ukraine, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Rescuers combed debris in a city in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, where an overnight Russian missile strike destroyed an apartment building and damaged nine others, killing at least three people.

The police force said the apartments in the city of Kramatorsk were hit by an Iskander-K tactical missile at 9.45 p.m. local time (1945 GMT). Earlier reports had described it as an attack with a rocket.

"Ten apartment buildings were damaged, one partially collapsed. Search and rescue work, which continued all night, is still under way," police said in a statement.

The dead include a husband and wife and a 61-year-old pensioner, whose daughter was still believed to be missing. Eighteen people were also wounded.

Hours later, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said two more strikes had also targeted the city centre, leaving at least five people wounded and more than a dozen buildings damaged.

Kramatorsk is close to the front line in eastern Ukraine and many residents have fled or regularly take shelter in cellars, which may have saved lives compared with similar attacks elsewhere. A missile strike on an apartment block in the central city of Dnipro two weeks ago killed at least 44 people.

"This is not a replay of the past, it is the daily reality of our country - a country with absolute evil on its borders," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.


Rescuers were digging through mounds of debris at the site of the first strike, where residents sorted through scattered personal belongings.

Apartment interiors were visible amid the blasted-out walls from the neighbouring building.

"This is the centre of the city. Only civilians live here, which is why any attempts to justify this are futile at the very least," Kyrylenko told Reuters at the scene.

Resident Nataliia Khyzhniak, who was being treated at a local hospital, said she had been grooming her cat and preparing for bed when the missile struck.

"They (the doctors) sowed up my back and pulled out shrapnel and glass," she said from her hospital bed.

Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians.

In a separate tweet early on Thursday, Zelenskiy wrote: "The only way to stop Russian terrorism is to defeat it. By tanks. Fighter jets. Long-range missiles."

Ukraine, which last week secured promises of battle tanks, wants allies to supply fighters and missiles. Washington is expected to include longer-range rockets in its next package of arms as soon as this week.

Last April, Ukraine said 57 people died when a Russian missile hit the train station in Kramatorsk. Moscow denied responsibility, saying the missile was Ukrainian.

Reporting by David Ljunggren, Ron Popeski and Vitalii Hnidyi; Editing by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson

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