World

Russian missiles hit apartment block in Ukrainian city

At least four people died in the attack in Kharkiv, officials said.

Firefighters put out a fire at an apartment building damaged in a Russian missile attack in Kharkiv (Andrii Marienko/AP)
Firefighters put out a fire at an apartment building damaged in a Russian missile attack in Kharkiv (Andrii Marienko/AP) (Andrii Marienko/AP)

Russian ballistic missiles have slammed into an apartment block in Kharkiv, killing at least four people, Ukrainian officials said.

The night-time attack came a day after President Joe Biden gave Kyiv the green light to strike back with American weapons at Russian military assets targeting Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Russia launched five S-300/S-400 ballistic missiles at Kharkiv overnight, Ukraine’s air force said.

One of them struck a residential building close to midnight and was followed by another missile 25 minutes later that hit first responders, according to regional governor Oleh Syniehubov. At least 25 people were injured, he said.

People react after the Russian missile attack (Andrii Marienko/AP)
People react after the Russian missile attack (Andrii Marienko/AP) (Andrii Marienko/AP)

Ukrainian officials have previously accused Russia of targeting rescue workers by hitting residential buildings with two consecutive missiles — the first one to draw emergency crews to the scene and the second one to wound or kill them.

The tactic is called a “double tap” in military jargon, and Russia used the same method in Syria’s civil war.

A Russian onslaught this month in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, including a Russian aerial bomb attack on a large construction supplies store that killed 18 people on May 25, has forced the evacuation of thousands of people and has stretched Ukraine’s depleted forces.

Apart from Kharkiv, Moscow’s troops are pressing in the Donetsk region further south and are assembling a force for an expected attack in the Sumy region further north, according to Ukrainian officials,

The Kremlin’s bigger and better-equipped army is exploiting Ukrainian shortages in troops and ammunition after a lengthy delay in US military aid. Western Europe’s inadequate military production has slowed crucial deliveries of military aid to Ukraine.

Mr Biden’s decision allows for US-supplied weapons to be used for “counterfire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can hit back against Russian forces that are attacking them or preparing to attack them”, one Washington official told The Associated Press.

Firefighters responded after the missile strike (Andrii Marienko/AP)
Firefighters responded after the missile strike (Andrii Marienko/AP) (Andrii Marienko/AP)

But the officials stressed that the US policy calling on Ukraine not to use American-provided ATACMS or long-range missiles and other munitions to strike offensively inside Russia has not changed.

That restriction has frustrated Ukrainian officials as the military is unable to order hits on Russian troops massing across the border. Kharkiv city is only 12 miles from Russia and Russian bases used to launch missile attacks.

The question of whether to allow Ukraine to hit targets on Russian soil with Western-supplied weaponry has been a delicate issue since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion on February 24 2022.

Western leaders have hesitated to take the step because it runs the risk of provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly warned that the West’s direct involvement could put the world on a path to nuclear conflict.

But as Russia has recently gained the battlefield initiative on some parts of the 600-mile front line, some Western leaders are pushing for a policy change allowing Kyiv to strike military bases inside Russia with sophisticated long-range weapons provided by its Western partners.