Russian rockets hit apartment block, killing at least 15 - Ukraine

Rescue operation is underway after a missile strike, in Chasiv Yar

By Anna Voitenko

CHASIV YAR, Ukraine (Reuters) -Rescuers raced on Sunday to reach more than 20 people feared trapped under the rubble of an apartment block in eastern Ukraine that was hit by a Russian rocket attack in the night, killing at least 15 people, officials said.

The five-storey building in the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region was struck by rockets late on Saturday, the officials said. On Sunday afternoon, the regional emergency service said that 24 more people could still be trapped.

"We ran to the basement, there were three hits, the first somewhere in the kitchen," a sobbing local resident told Reuters as rescuers removed a body in a white sheet and cleared rubble from the ruins of a building using a crane.

"The second (strike), I do not even remember, there was lightning, we ran towards the second entrance and then straight into the basement. We sat there all night until this morning," said the woman who identified herself as Ludmila, 64.

The emergency service said rescuers were in verbal contact with three people under the rubble.

Russia, which says it is conducting a "special military operation" to demilitarise Ukraine, denies targeting civilians.

"What have we done to them, what have our people done to hurt them? There was darkness and then it all started," Ludmila said.

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

A bill to apply this label to Russia has been tabled by two U.S. senators, who expressed their confidence the proposal would be voted through during a Thursday visit to Kyiv.

(Reporting by Max Hunder; Editing by Robert Birsel, Pravin Char, William Maclean, Tom Balmforth)