Rescuers Look for Survivors at Kyiv Apartment Block Hit During U.N. Chief’s Visit to Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine—Rescue workers sifted through the debris of a 21-story apartment block that was struck by a Russian missile here as the head of the United Nations was visiting the Ukrainian capital, while Ukrainian forces stepped up their efforts to prevent Russian troops from advancing from positions in the east of the country.

Kyiv Major Vitali Klitschko said a body had been found in the debris around the bottom of the building late Thursday. It was later identified as that of Vira Hyrych, a journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who lived in the building, the news service said.

Mr. Klitschko said the toll would likely have been higher if not for the fact that many of the apartments were empty since Russia’s initial attempt to take the city in February and early March. Since then, Moscow has focused on consolidating its positions and advancing from the south and east of the country. “Kyiv continues to be under enemy fire,” Mr. Klitschko said.

Sales manager Mikhail Vovchynsky, 22, and his girlfriend, Olha Bortnik, 20, had just returned from work to their apartment on the 14th floor when the missile struck the building. If they had arrived home just a few minutes later they might have gotten stuck in the elevator, or worse, he said. Though the structure is still standing, its lower floors were gouged out by the impact and most of the windows were shattered by the shock wave.

The apartment block is next to a manufacturing plant that had previously been targeted in a Russian strike. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday said it destroyed the facility with a precision Kalibr missile in addition to hitting a range of other targets across Ukraine.

Ms. Bortnik said Moscow might have hit the apartment building by mistake. But Mr. Vovchynsky speculated it could have been deliberately targeted to scare residents like him who fled the city in the early days of the invasion but returned after Russian forces retreated from around the capital last month.

Kyiv residents carry their belongings out of their building following Russian strikes in the Ukrainian capital.


Sergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

They said they were loading their belongings into a vehicle but plan to remain in Kyiv because of work.

More than 100 civilians have been killed by Russian attacks on the capital since the start of the invasion, including four children, Mr. Klitschko said.

The missile strike came shortly after UN Secretary-General António Guterres met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday after meeting with Russian President

Vladimir Putin

in Moscow earlier this week. He said the UN would continue to push for a full-scale cease-fire, telling Portuguese broadcaster RTP that he was “shocked” by the missile attack“not because I’m here but because Kyiv is a sacred city for Ukrainians and Russians alike.”

Mr. Zelensky, meanwhile, said in his customary late-night address that the timing of the attack “says a lot about Russia’s true attitude to global institutions, about the efforts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the UN and everything that the organization represents. ”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Guterres had conceded his exasperation that the UN Security Council, where Russia is a permanent member, had failed to stop the conflict in Ukraine. “Let me be very clear. The security council failed to do everything in its power to prevent and end this war,” he said in a joint news conference with Mr. Zelensky. “This is a source of great disappointment, frustration and anger.”

Debris inside a building in Kyiv that was damaged by Russian strikes.


Genya Savilov/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Speaking with the UK’s Sky News Friday, Mark Malloch Brown, a former UN deputy secretary-general, said there are now concerns that the body is facing a crisis similar to that which crippled its predecessor, the League of Nations, before World War II.

“There are many that worry that the UN faces a similar moment of crisis of legitimacy and confidence,” he said. “One of the original guarantors of the UN, the former Soviet Union, now Russia, has become a rogue state, an enemy of the international law and order system.”

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, meanwhile, said Russian forces were continuing their efforts to gain full control of the Donbas region in the east of the country, parts of which broke away from Kyiv’s control in 2014, the same year Moscow annexed the strategic Crimean Peninsula. It said the primary Russian objective appears to be maintaining a land corridor from Donbas to Crimea, while trying to cut off Ukrainian units in the area.

Ukrainian officials and Western analysts say the Russian forces are making slow progress, however. Significantly, Ukraine said its special forces had hit a strategic railway bridge in Melitopol on Thursday. Video footage showed it had been severely damaged, potentially disrupting Russia’s ability to supply its front lines toward the city of Zaporizhzhia from Crimea.

A priest welcomes back a woman to Hostomel after she had fled to western Ukraine.


Justyna Mielnikiewicz/MAPS for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Zelensky, meanwhile, welcomed news that President Biden had sent Congress a request for $33 billion to fund more weapons and economic assistance for Ukraine, calling it a significant development. The move has garnered broad support in Congress and signals how the US and its European allies are preparing for a longer war.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization emphasized the likely duration of support Ukraine would require.

“It’s a very unpredictable and fragile situation in Ukraine but there is absolutely a possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

A man opens a garage door peppered with bullet holes in Zahaltsi, Ukraine.


Alexey Furman/Getty Images

Write to Isabel Coles at

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