Civilians killed as ‘stray’ Russian missile hits apartment block in Ukraine

Man weeps over his dead father with boy also reported dead in Kharkiv region

Firefighters tackle the blaze at residential buildings in Chuhuiv, eastern Ukraine. AFP

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A man wept over the body of his dead father on Thursday after a missile strike devastated two residential blocks in the eastern Ukrainian town of Chuhuiv, marking some of the first civilian deaths of the invasion.

A large missile crater was seen between the badly damaged buildings while firefighters doused flames from the upper levels. Curtains and window frames were blown out and left dangling from the wrecked facade of one of the blocks.

Ukrainian authorities also reported the death of a boy in the region after shelling struck a residential building but it was not immediately clear if the deaths were linked.

Residents said they believed the strike was from a stray missile that was aimed at a nearby military airfield targeted by Russia in its opening salvoes close to Ukraine’s eastern border. Thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the direction of the airfield, AFP said.

The Russian defence ministry said it was not targeting cities, but using precision weapons and claimed that "there is no threat to civilian population."

But pictures from the scene showed trees and cars destroyed and the body of the man covered with debris. “I told him to leave,” sobbed the man’s son who is in his 30s.

Firefighters look for survivors after shelling in Chuhuiv. AFP

Footage online showed firefighters inside the ruined building, leading people to safety. A woman wearing slippers with blood running down her face was guided over the debris from inside the ruins. Others injured included a woman wrapped in warm coat with her face bloodied and her head bandaged.

Anastasia, a teenager from the town, said she and others were now intending to flee: “We could never have expected this. We're going to the village, we hope the war will spare us there."

A policeman said the death toll from the missile strike was still being assessed. Several other buildings on the street were seriously damaged.

Ukrainian military vehicles swarmed around the town as Kiev insisted its forces would do all they could to protect the nation and its citizens.

The country’s leadership said at least 40 people have been killed so far in what it called a “full-scale war” with Russians advancing from the east, north and south.

Updated: February 24, 2022, 12:44 PM