Ukraine live briefing: At least 30 killed in weekend strike on Dnipro apartments, Zelensky says; Kyiv renews calls for defense systems

Firefighters rescue a survivor from the ruins of a Dnipro, Ukraine, apartment complex Sunday, Jan. 15. A missile struck the complex, killing dozens of people and injuring scores. (Wojciech Grzedzinski for The Washington Post)
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DNIPRO, Ukraine — The death toll of a weekend missile attack on an apartment building has risen to at least 30, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday. Another 30 people who could have been inside at the time of the strike are unaccounted for, he added. Rescue workers continued to sift through the gigantic pile of rubble outside the damaged building, and emergency personnel and rescue dogs searched for survivors inside the remains of the building and in the wreckage outside.

Kyiv renewed its calls for more advanced Western air defense systems after the strike, which Ukrainian officials said Russia carried out with a long-range missile that Ukraine’s military was not “capable of shooting down.” Ukraine’s armed forces said defensive weapons such as the Patriot missile system that the Pentagon is preparing to send could have been capable of intercepting such an attack.

Terrifying images of the aftermath of the strike on Dnipro

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • One of the dead is a 15-year-old girl, Zelensky said during his nightly address. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, tweeted that Maria Lebid, 15, was killed in the attack. His tweet said her sister described Maria as super smart, super talented and super funny.
  • Dozens in Dnipro were rescued Sunday, Zelensky said. Among the rescued were six children, he said. A digging machine hacked at the rubble in an attempt to access the collapsed apartments below. A worker on a cherry picker leaned into the fourth-floor balcony, ripping away debris with a shovel as he tried to get to the unit inside.
  • At least 73 people, including 13 children, were wounded, Zelensky said. Authorities will seek to resettle hundreds of residents after 72 apartments were destroyed and 164 damaged, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, said on Telegram.
  • The attack was the worst in Dnipro since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and occurred just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed his most senior military officer, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, to oversee the war effort.

2. Battleground updates

  • There were Russian missile attacks elsewhere across the country, damaging critical and civilian infrastructure from Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the northeast to Kherson in the south, officials there said. A thermal power station was damaged, deepening Ukraine’s electricity deficit and forcing authorities to tighten restrictions on electricity use, transmission system operator Ukrenergo said.
  • Russia and Ukraine disputed control of the eastern salt mining town of Soledar, a gateway to the city of Bakhmut that has become a recent focus of the fighting. Moscow claimed to have seized the town, but Ukraine’s 46th Air Assault Brigade said Sunday that Ukrainian soldiers were still fighting there.
  • Three Russian service members were killed and about 15 injured after a grenade blew up ammunition at a farm in the Belgorod region overnight, Russian state news service Tass reported, citing local emergency services. Eight servicemen were missing after the explosion, according to the emergency services. Official reports gave little detail about the circumstances of the explosion, and Telegram channels connected to Russian law enforcement attributed it to a serviceman detonating a hand grenade, starting a fire that led to the explosion of the ammunition. The Washington Post could not independently verify these reports.
  • Russian officials may be seeking to augment the forces available for the war in Ukraine by raising the maximum age of military conscription, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. It cited a proposal by Russian lawmaker Andrey Kartapolov to raise the upper age limit from 27 to 30 “in time for the Spring 2023 draft.” Putin backed a proposal last month to change the ages of conscription from between 18 and 27, to 21 and 30. But Kartapolov’s proposal said that the minimum age would only be raised following a one- to three-year “transition period,” Reuters reported — which suggests that Russians between 18 and 30 could be called up in the meantime.

3. Global impact

  • Western allies are preparing to send more advanced military equipment to Ukraine. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Zelensky in a phone call Saturday that the United Kingdom would provide Challenger 2 tanks, along with additional artillery systems, following a pledge by the United States, Germany and France to send advanced infantry fighting vehicles. Ukrainian forces have been using Soviet-era tanks.
  • A European lawmaker called on Brussels to “substantially” strengthen sanctions against Russia after its strike in Dnipro. Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, said in an open letter that the E.U. should “launch a full set of sanctions against all companies and individuals that still trade and deal in Russia or with Russian companies.” He also called for further financial sanctions against Russia and certain Russian individuals.
  • Ukraine also wants to place international sanctions on 200 people who have aided Russia, Zelensky said Sunday night without elaborating on the identities of the alleged offenders or which international body would carry out the sanctions. “Those who grease the Russian propaganda machine. Those who tried to sell Ukraine somewhere in Moscow,” Zelensky said. “This public will face a full list of personal restrictions. We will do everything to make the sanctions work on the largest possible scale — in Europe, in the world.”
  • Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev accused Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of being subservient to the United States after the Japanese leader’s summit with President Biden, saying Saturday that Kishida should ritually disembowel himself. The day before, Kishida and Biden had issued a statement saying that any use of a nuclear weapon by Russia in Ukraine would be “an act of hostility against humanity and unjustifiable in any way.”
  • Rocket fragments were found in northern Moldova near its border with Ukraine, Moldovan President Maia Sandu wrote Saturday on Twitter. The leader of the former Soviet state did not specify from what country the debris came but denounced the attacks on Dnipro and elsewhere. “We strongly condemn today’s intensified attacks of Russia,” she said. “Peace must prevail.”

4. From our correspondents

Bloody Bakhmut siege poses risks for Ukraine: Ukrainian officials are having to make a difficult choice as the battle for control of Bakhmut intensifies in the east — exhausting personnel and resources just as Kyiv is in need of both for the counteroffensive it says it is planning to launch in the coming months, Paul Sonne and Isabelle Khurshudyan report.

Russian forces — chiefly made up of mercenaries and released convicts from the Wagner group — have attempted to capture Bakhmut for months, even though many military analysts view the city as having relatively little strategic significance to the broader battlefield. However, the city has become a potent political symbol on both sides, and U.S. officials have said that the area’s vast salt and gypsum mines are of interest to the Kremlin. As Russia has escalated its assault around the area in recent days, the savage fighting has underscored the high cost of the battle.

Now, Ukrainian officials are faced with a choice: Keep pouring troops, weapons and ammunition into the fight for Bakhmut or conserve those resources for the broader battle ahead, at the risk of losing the area to the Russians.

“For us, Bakhmut is the same corner of our country as Soledar, Kherson, Melitopol, Kharkiv or Dnipro. It is our native land. We fight and will fight for every meter of our land,” said Yuriy Skala, the commander of an intelligence battalion fighting in Bakhmut. “But we will fight smartly: If the circumstances require a tactical maneuver, the top military leadership will surely make the right conclusions and actions.”

Timsit and Ebel reported from London, Pannett from Sydney, and Javaid and Brasch from Washington.