Three rescuers killed seeking to save victims of air strike by Putin military on Ukraine second largest city

Three rescuers were killed as they rushed to save victims of an air strike by Vladimir Putin’s military on Ukraine’s second largest city.

Russian drones hit high-rise blocks of flats and other homes early on Thursday in Kharkiv, close to the border with Russia.

As the rescuers were seeking to help people trapped under the rubble, the area was hit with a second attack.

One of the killed rescuers was a 52-year-old firefighter whose son, also a firefighter, had been putting out a fire several buildings away, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said.

Realising his father had been killed, the son, Volodymyr, knelt on the ground and wept as two emergency workers consoled him, video shared by Klymenko showed.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted: “A strike on Kharkiv, just an ordinary apartment building. With three Shaheds (drones). A despicable and cynical attack, when the rescuers arrived at the scene of the strike, the terrorists attacked again.

“As a result of the attack, 4 people were killed. Among them were our rescuers: Vladyslav Lohinov, Serhii Baidalinov and Volodymyr Matiushenko. A civilian, Zoia Bondiukova, was also killed.

Russian terrorists will be held accountable for their actions in Kharkiv and for all acts of aggression against our people,” he added, stressing the need to increase his country’s air defences, with Kyiv pleading to its allies to supply more Patriot systems.

Under floodlights in the night, rescuers raced to free residents trapped under rubble and ladders reached up from fire trucks to shattered apartments at the top of high-rise blocks.

“Windows, all of the glass, everything was knocked out. There’s nothing left,” said Zhanetta Kravchenko, a 77-year-old resident.

“We are alive, at least, and I’m grateful for that.”

The latest attacks appear to be yet more evidence showing that the Kremlin’s claims that Putin’s forces are not targeting civilians are untrue.

Kharkiv, which lies some 20 miles from the Russian border, has been bombed heavily during the 25-month war and been one of the worst afflicted as Russia has renewed its missile and drone attacks on the energy system.

Governor Oleh Synehubov said 12 people were injured, with three in serious condition, as well as the four fatalities.

Russia used at least 15 drones in the Kharkiv attacks, he added.

The military shot down 11 Shahed drones out of 20 launched at the country overnight, the General Staff said.

Broadcaster Suspilne reported that one of the strikes caused serious damage to apartments on three floors of a 14-storey building. It said emergency crews had been unable to work for at least an hour for fear of further strikes.

Residential buildings, stores, a medical facility and cars were damaged in the attack, the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office said.

Drones also hit the Zmiivska thermal power plant in the region, Mr Synehubov said, keeping up pressure on an energy system that has come under repeated attack from air strikes in recent weeks.

“In Kharkiv and areas of the region, around 350,000 consumers have been disconnected,” the Ukrenergo grid operator said.

Russian forces also hit a solar power plant in Dnipropetrovsk region, causing a fire which has since been put out, the Energy Ministry said.

Some limits on energy consumption were put in place in the region in the morning, the officials added.

Russia targeted Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure with more than 150 missiles and over 240 Shahed drones between March 22-29 of this year, according to the statement from Ukrainian parliament’s committee on energy, housing and utilities services.

These attacks severely damaged or destroyed at least eight power plants and several dozen substations, immediately cutting off more than million citizens from electricity, heat and water supply, the statement said. The full restoration of the facilities will likely take months.