Deadly new strike as Ukraine mourns dozens killed at wake

Deadly new strike as Ukraine mourns dozens killed at wake

Rescue and emergency crews work in Kharkiv after Russian missile strikes that left a boy killed and several others wounded. (Photo: AFP)
Rescue and emergency crews work in Kharkiv after Russian missile strikes that left a boy killed and several others wounded. (Photo: AFP)

KHARKIV, Ukraine - Russian missiles smashed into residential buildings in this city in eastern Ukraine on Friday, killing a 10-year-old boy, just hours after a strike killed more than 50 people attending a wake in a nearby village.

Rescue workers in Kharkiv were extinguishing fires next to charred vehicles, and missile fragments lay at the bottom of a deep crater in the centre of the city, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

Multiple-storey buildings surrounding the debris-strewn blast site were scarred by the strikes, with dozens of windows blown out and dazed residents walking beneath skeletons of housing blocks.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack had left a 10-year-old boy dead and described the strikes as another example of "Russian terror," in a statement offering condolences to the killed boy's family.

The regional governor Oleg Synyegubov said 27 people, including an 11-month-old child, had been injured and that search operations were ongoing.

"One of the missiles hit a road; windows were broken in neighbouring houses," he said. "The second missile hit a three-storey residential building, causing a fire."

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city that lies in a region bordering Russia, has been under routine shelling since Moscow's forces invaded in February last year.

Attack on soldier's wake

The fallout from the missile strikes on the city near the border with Russia came as Synyegubov updated the toll of attacks on a village in the Kharkiv region less than 24 hours earlier that left more than 50 dead.

"Fifty-two people have died as a result of this missile attack because one more person died in a medical facility," Synyegubov told state-run television, raising the toll by one.

Those killed in the village of Groza — also in the Kharkiv region — had gathered at a cafe for the wake for a fallen Ukrainian soldier.

The strike provoked outrage from Western leaders while the United Nations said the attack could amount to war crime.

The soldier who was being commemorated was killed a month after Russia invaded in February last year. He had been buried in the central city of Dnipro — away from his home village, then under Russian occupation.

He was reburied in Groza on Thursday morning. His wife and son, also a soldier, were both killed in the strike, officials said.

Around 20 rescuers from Kharkiv city were cleaning the rubble from the destroyed cafe and nearby shop on Friday morning.

 'Everyone died'

Oleksiy and some of his family came to the cemetery to mark out graves for his sister and brother-in-law, killed in the attack — their bodies had been taken by police to Kharkiv.

"I don't know when we will be able to bury them. My brother's body was preserved, but his wife's head was missing," he told AFP.

Nearby in the cemetery, a recently-dug grave was covered with fresh flowers and a Ukrainian flag. It was the grave of 49-year-old Andriy Kozir, the soldier that villagers had gathered to pay hommage to when a missile hit their cafe.

"Everyone at the wake died," said 73-year-old Valentyna Poznenko, who lived opposite the destroyed cafe.

"The strike happened just after people went in," she told AFP, adding that the blast from the strike had torn the roof off her building.

"How did the Russians know that so many people were in there?" Poznenko said. "Maybe someone told them."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday described the attacks in Kharkiv as "atrocities" that "prove that global support for Ukraine must be sustained and increased."

Swathes of the Kharkiv region were captured by Russian forces in the early days of their invasion but Ukrainian forces have clawed back much of the territory since a lightning offensive late last year.

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