Rescue efforts continue after Russian strikes kill at least seven in eastern Ukraine

Sixty-seven people, including children, were wounded as two missiles damaged homes, administrative buildings and public amenities

A wounded local resident in her destroyed flat in a block that was destroyed during Monday's Russian missile strike on Pokrovsk. Reuters
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Rescue workers were combing through the rubble of damaged buildings in the city of Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, a day after Russian strikes killed at least seven people, including five civilians.

The two attacks on a Ukrainian-controlled area of Donetsk region occurred within 40 minutes of each other on Monday evening, damaging homes, a hotel, restaurants, shops and administrative buildings.

Early on Tuesday rescuers were seen evacuating survivors from the remains of a five-storey building and carrying the wounded into ambulances.

“We are resuming clearing the rubble. At night, we were forced to suspend work due to the high threat of repeated shelling,” Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on Telegram, adding that seven people, including five civilians, had been killed in the bombings.

Sixty-seven people were also wounded in the strikes, including two children, Mr Klymenko added.

Pictures posted by officials showed the aftermath of the attack on the Druzhba Hotel in the city centre, which suffered a direct hit.

Residents said the hotel was popular with journalists, aid workers and the military. It was one of the few still operating in Donetsk region, close to the front line.

In his evening address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia had used Iskander ballistic missiles to attack “residential buildings, as usual” in Pokrovsk.

Witnesses told Reuters that first responders reacting to the initial strike had been killed and injured in the second one.

Two rescuers were among the dead, they said.

The attacks occurred 50km from the eastern front line, where Moscow says it is gaining ground and repelling Ukrainian attacks.

Kateryna, a 58-year-old resident of Pokrovsk, was at home when she heard the first blast. She told a relative who called to check on her that she was all right, but then her block was hit by the second missile.

“That’s it, bang – and that’s all. Flames filled up my eyes. I fell down on the floor, on the ground. My eyes (hurt) a lot,” Kateryna told Reuters, pointing at multiple scratches around her eyes. She had bandages on her forehead.

Another resident, 75-year-old Lidia, said she had been on the phone when the second missile hit. She had just picked up a torn white curtain covered with broken glass from the first attack.

“Suddenly this flew out and wrapped me up. Then the window fell on me,” she said from her sofa.

“My back has cuts. I just got back from the hospital … My knee and my thigh have cuts.” Pointing at her head, she said: “I had glass here.”

Mr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of trying to leave nothing but “broken and scorched stones” in eastern Ukraine.

Russian missiles, drones and artillery have repeatedly struck civilian areas in the war.

The deadly attack came just a day after officials from around 40 countries gathered in Saudi Arabia to find a peaceful settlement for the war in Ukraine. On Monday the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the two-day talks in Jeddah as not having “the slightest added value” because Moscow had not been invited.

The ministry repeated its previous claims that Moscow is open to a diplomatic solution – on its terms – that would end the 18-month-old war, and that it is ready to respond to serious proposals.

The Kremlin's demands include Kyiv recognising its annexation of four Ukrainian regions, which Russian forces at this point only partially control, and Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr Zelenskyy, ruled out Moscow’s demands. He said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Russian forces must fully withdraw from the occupied areas and that Kyiv would not compromise on that.

Updated: August 08, 2023, 9:47 AM