Rescuers completed a search for survivors on Tuesday after a Russian missile attack on a small Ukrainian city Monday night followed another 37 minutes later, apparently targeting emergency workers who responded to the first attack.
Officials said the final toll was seven dead, including a rescue worker, and 82 wounded, including 38 emergency workers and two children. The attack devastated the city of Pokrovsk, located about 43 miles northwest of Russian-occupied Donetsk and 30 miles from the front line.
After the second attack, the search for survivors was put on hold at night due to concern that additional strikes on rescuers might take place, according to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klimenko. Ukrainian officials said that at least 12 multi-storey buildings, including a hotel, the prosecutor’s office, a pharmacy, shops and two cafes, were damaged.
Ukraine’s state emergency service said that by the time rescue operations were completed on Tuesday, 122 tons of rubble had been removed from the city centre.
Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed its forces bombed a command post of Ukrainian forces in the city, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS, using the city’s old name, Krasnoarmeysk.
Ukrainian officials rejected that assertion. “Of course this claim by disingenuous Russian propaganda has no basis in fact,” said Serhiy Cherefati, spokesman for the Ukrainian forces in the east, Said Ukrainian Pravda.
Photographs of the wreckage showed a five-story building missing part of the upper floor and many of its window frames badly mangled. Debris was scattered in a children’s playground. An Italian restaurant called Corleone’s, a popular gathering place for volunteers and journalists traveling to the front line, was left in ruins.
The successive attacks have been devastating even for a population largely accustomed to living their daily lives miles from the front line. This appears to be what Ukrainian officials have called a “double-tap attack,” a tactic intended to kill emergency workers or firefighters who were responding to the site of the initial strike.
Pavlo Kirilenko, the head of the regional military department, said authorities received a warning about 10 minutes before the second missile strike, which helped prevent larger casualties.
“If there had been a crowd and no additional measures had been taken literally in 10 minutes, the consequences would have been much worse,” he said on national television.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials paid tribute to the heroism of emergency workers and mourned Andriy Omelchenko, the rescuer who was killed by a second missile.
Officials said Mr. Omelchenko, 52, who was deputy head of Ukraine’s state emergency service in the region, “gave half his life to service.”
Russian forces carried out another double attack, on Monday evening, in a village in the Kupyansk district of the Kharkiv region, killing civilians and injuring emergency crews who came to help, according to Oleg Synigubov, head of the regional administration.
At least two people were killed and nine others – four of them first responders – were injured, Sinigubov said.
Anushka Patel And Daniel Victor Contribute to the preparation of reports.