Deadly Russian Missile Strikes Hit Kharkiv As Death Toll Rises To 31 In Destroyed Apartment Block

Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, was hit by a barrage of missiles on July 11, killing six people and injuring 31, regional officials said as the rescue efforts continued at the site of an another attack on an apartment building in a small town in the Donetsk region.

The press service of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor's Office said among the six killed in Kharkiv were a 17-year-old boy and his father, who were passing by a tire repair shop during the shelling.

The regional governor in Kharkiv, which is in northeastern Ukraine but outside the Donbas region, said that an apartment block and a school also were hit by missiles.

"All [attacks] were exclusively on civilian objects. This is absolute terrorism!" Oleh Synyehubov said.

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Russia claimed the attacks were "pinpoint" strikes on Ukrainian military personnel and "foreign mercenaries," adding that Ukrainian forces were suffering heavy losses in fighting. It provided no evidence to support the claim.

Later in the day a 74-year-old woman and a 63-year-old man were killed when Russian troops shelled Zolochiv in the Kharkiv region. A number of residential buildings were also damaged and destroyed by the shelling.

The attacks came as Russian forces stepped up their drive to capture all of the Donetsk region, which, along with neighboring Luhansk region, makes up the Donbas, the focus of Russia's brutal military onslaught in eastern Ukraine.

In the Donetsk town of Chasiv Yar, Ukrainian rescue crews were desperately searching through the rubble of a collapsed five-story apartment block that was hit by a Russian rocket attack late on July 9.

The bodies of 31 people have been recovered from the rubble, the emergency services office in Chasiv Yar said on July 11. Nine people have been pulled out alive.

Officials fear dozens of people could still be trapped in the rubble of the apartment building.

Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, said the strike was "another terrorist attack" and that Russia should be designated as a "state sponsor of terrorism" as a result.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the attack on Chasiv Yar represented another potential war crime by the invading forces. He said Russia had carried out 34 air strikes since July 9.

He also welcomed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Kyiv. During a joint news conference with Rutte, he said Russia still had a big advantage in artillery.

"With all the partners who are ready to give support, I talk about artillery. There is indeed not enough," Zelenskiy said.

The rocket assault on Chasiv Yar is the latest in a recent burst of high-casualty Russian attacks on civilian structures in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Moscow of purposely targeting civilians in a missile attack that destroyed a five-story apartment block in the eastern Donetsk region. At least 20 people died when their building in Chasiv Yar was leveled on July 9.

Russia says it is conducting a "special military operation" to demilitarize Ukraine, among other goals that Kyiv and the West dismiss as unjustified, and denies targeting civilians in the war.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konanshenkov claimed the Chasiv Yar attack struck a gathering point for a Ukrainian military brigade and that precision weapons were used.

Moscow-backed separatist forces on July 11 said they had taken the village of Bohorodychne, calling it a “powerful bridgehead” for an attack on the key Donetsk region city of Slovyansk, some 24 kilometers away.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces attacked areas near Slovyansk on July 10 but were forced to withdraw.

Serhiy Hayday, the governor of the eastern Luhansk region, said Russian troops were also gathering in the village of Bilohorivka, about 50 kilometers east of Slovyansk.

The Ukrainian military's General Staff said early on July 11 that the Russian military is continuing to shell Ukrainian settlements in the east of the country.

"In the Donetsk direction, there are signs of preparation of enemy units for the intensification of hostilities in the Kramatorsk and Bakhmut directions,” it said in its daily update.

"Another hostile attempt of the invaders' offensive in the direction of Mariyinka completely failed. Under the fire of our soldiers, the invaders shamefully ran back," the summary stated.

The claims could not be independently verified.

The General Staff also said attacks were reported in several cities and towns in southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on July 10 that U.S. long-range multiple-launch rocket systems have already made a "huge difference" on the battlefield.

Ukraine currently has nine of the high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and similar systems provided by the United States and allies, Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said earlier this week.

The United States announced on July 8 that it would be sending four more. It said that would bring the number of HIMARS sent by the United States to 12.

Meanwhile, Reznikov told Britain’s Times newspaper that Kyiv is massing a force of 1 million troops equipped with the newly provided Western weapons in preparation for an offensive to reclaim territory in the south.

Reznikov said Zelenskiy had ordered the military to retake coastal areas that are crucial to the country’s economy but which are now occupied by Russian forces.

“We understand that, politically, it is very necessary for our country,” he was quoted as saying. “The president has given the order to the supreme military chief to draw up plans.”

Following the remarks, Ukrainian forces said they had recaptured the village of Ivanivka in the Kherson region.

"The only thing left of the Russian occupiers in Ivanivka are horrible memories and 'dead' military equipment," brigade officials said, although the report could not immediately be verified.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and UNIAN