KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Ukrainian man rushed to his home outside the central city of Dnipro in hopes of rescuing his family, only to find his 2-year-old daughter dead and his wife seriously injured as he was helping to pull them out of the rubble of their apartment destroyed in one of the last Russian airstrikes of the war, authorities reported on Sunday.
Writing on Telegram after the recovery of Liza’s body, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that at least 500 Ukrainian children have been killed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022. The United Nations says that around 1,000 other Ukrainian children were injured and thousands more were forcibly deported to Russia.
Zelenskyy, who marked International Children’s Day on Thursday, said “Russian weapons and hatred continue to take and destroy the lives of Ukrainian children every day,” adding that “many of them could have become famous scholars, artists, sports champions, contributing to the history of Ukraine.”
“We have to hold on and win this war!” he said. “All of Ukraine, all of our people, all of our children, must be freed from Russian terror!”
Liza was killed when a Russian missile landed in a courtyard next to her building on Saturday evening while she was at home with her mother, said Serhiy Lysak, the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk. The girl’s father rushed home from work.
“The father was on duty and, as I was told, he personally cleared the rubble and got his wife and daughter out. Imagine the magnitude of this tragedy,” said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, reporting on the rescue which lasted until Sunday morning. The girl’s mother was hospitalized in intensive care.
Zelenskyy said five children were among 25 people injured in Saturday’s attack, which damaged two residential buildings.
The mother-of-one sat amid broken concrete, twisted metal, toys and children’s clothes near her building and described what happened.
“I was running from the electric station through traffic,” recalls Alyona Serednyak. “I was running home. My child was home alone. We tried to pull my child out from under the cage on the window.”
She said they managed to free him and he was now hospitalized in intensive care.
Like Zelenskyy, his wife Olena focused on the suffering of children during the war on Sunday, dedicating a monument to them in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.
“Parents hold their children’s hands when they take their first steps, when they take them for the first time to kindergarten, to school,” said the first lady of Ukraine. “The worst thing you can imagine is holding the hand of a dead child. It just shouldn’t be like that. Children have to live!”
Russian drone and cruise missile strikes on Sunday targeted several parts of the country, including the capital, kyiv.
The Ukrainian Air Force updated previous figures and said air defenses shot down six of eight Shahed self-explosive drones and four of six cruise missiles fired.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said two missiles hit a military airbase in Kropyvnytskyi, Kyrovohrad province, central Ukraine. He did not report any damage.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the military destroyed Ukrainian fighter jets and ammunition depots in strikes on Ukrainian airfields, but gave no further details.
The Russian military has in recent days reported attacks on Ukrainian air defense batteries, air bases, troop and ammunition depots, military production plants, command and observation points and other positions on the battlefield. The strikes come as Ukrainian officials refrain from announcing the launch of their much-anticipated counter-offensive to reclaim more Russian-occupied territory, although the pace of military activity suggests the operation may already be underway. in progress.
Ukrainian forces kept pressure on Russian forces in the eastern town of Bakhmut, which Moscow claimed control of last month after the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.
Elsewhere, Russians fighting alongside Ukrainian forces said they had launched new attacks on Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine. One of the groups, the Russian Volunteer Corps, released videos on Sunday showing an alleged raid and offering to swap prisoners with Russian authorities. The Associated Press could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov responded to the prisoner swap offer in a video, saying he was skeptical the captives were still alive, but was open to a meeting for discuss a trade. The Russian Volunteer Corps said in a video released later that no meetings had taken place and that Russian prisoners would be handed over to Ukrainian forces, which periodically swapped prisoners with Russia in one of the few areas of cooperation.
Gladkov also reported more Ukrainian shelling Sunday on the border district of Shebekino and nearby areas. He said at least two people were killed and several people injured on Saturday and several fires broke out. The Russian Defense Ministry said the country’s forces repelled an attempted incursion into the town of Novaya Tavolzhanka.
Some observers see attacks in Belgorod, which prompted Russian authorities to evacuate thousands of residents, as part of Ukraine’s effort to distract Moscow and stretch its forces to help the counteroffensive succeed.
In Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014, regional leader Sergei Aksenov on Sunday morning reported a Ukrainian drone attack on the town of Djankoi. He claimed that five of the attacking drones were shot down and four others blocked and forced to land, adding that there were no casualties.
The latest Russian raids on Ukrainian towns have raised concerns over the safety of civilians after authorities said nearly a quarter of the 4,800 air-raid shelters they inspected were locked or unfit for use .
In Kyiv, 44% of 1,078 shelters were found closed or unusable, Strategic Industries Minister Oleksandr Kamyshin said on Sunday.
The official acknowledgments came after a 33-year-old woman in kyiv reportedly died while waiting outside a closed shelter during a barrage of Russian missiles on Thursday.
Prosecutors in the capital said four people had been arrested in connection with a criminal investigation into the woman’s death as she and others waited to enter a locked shelter. A security guard who allegedly failed to unlock the doors remained in custody. Three others, including a local official, have been placed under house arrest.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Saturday that city authorities had received “more than 1,000” complaints about locked, dilapidated or inadequate air-raid shelters within a day of launching a return service. information online.
Andrew Katell contributed to this report from New York.
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