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A view shows residential houses heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Nov. 15.ALINA SMUTKO/Reuters

A Russian missile smashed into an apartment block in the sleepy eastern Ukrainian town of Selydove on Wednesday, killing two people and wounding at least three others, Ukrainian officials said.

Rescuers at the site raced to clear rubble to find anyone trapped after four S-300 missiles struck the town shortly after midnight, damaging six apartment buildings and 20 homes, according to the police.

The State Emergency Service said in the afternoon that a body had been recovered from the rubble, pushing up the death toll to two. “There are probably two people under the rubble,” it said on Telegram messenger.

The rescue work continued, it said.

“There were no soldiers living there, only civilians,” Olha, a 64-year-old woman who lives next door to the ruined building, told Reuters.

Through tears, she said she knew a woman who had been killed.

“Of course I knew her … and her son. He was given medical help, he was recovering from an operation. But [she] died.”

“People have been left with nothing,” Olha said.

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Local services workers remove debris near the crater.ALINA SMUTKO/Reuters

Her neighbour, 66-year-old Natalia, looked shocked by the night’s tragedy.

“Now I’m scared to be in my own flat.”

About half of the apartment block had been destroyed by the missile, which had torn out a gaping triangular hole that spanned at least 10 metres at its top.

Rescuers cleared the debris and warned residents against approaching a surviving corner of the structure as it teetered, close to collapse.

A large crane assisted workers in clearing a mass of loose rubble from where the top floor once had been. Many onlookers were in shock, some cried.

Russia has carried out regular missile and drone strikes on population centres behind the front line of its 21-month-old invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow denies targeting civilians. Ukraine regularly reports that Russian missile and drone strikes have killed and hurt civilians and damaged civilian infrastructure during the full-scale war launched by Russia in February, 2022.

At least one person was killed as a result of Russian shelling that damaged a multi-storey residential building in Selydove, Donetsk region, on Nov. 15.

The Associated Press

Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops have crossed the vast River Dnipro into occupied areas of Kherson region and are operating in small groups, Russia conceded on Wednesday, saying it had dispatched more troops to stop them.

Ukraine said on Tuesday it had secured a foothold on the eastern bank of the Dnipro “against all odds,” a potentially major setback for Russian occupation forces in the south where Kyiv is trying to open a new line of attack.

A Ukrainian military spokesperson added on Wednesday that Ukrainian troops were trying to push Russian forces back from the eastern bank of the river, which serves as a formidable natural barrier on the battlefield.

Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed governor of the part of Kherson region which Moscow controls, acknowledged in a statement that Ukrainian forces had managed to cross the river, but said they were taking heavy losses.

Ukrainian forces, he said, were operating in small groups spread over an area from the region’s railway bridge to the village of Krynky, a distance of around 20 kilometres (12 miles). He said they numbered around one and a half companies.

“Our additional forces have now been brought in. The enemy is trapped in [the settlement of] Krynky and a fiery hell has been arranged for him: bombs, rockets, heavy flamethrower systems, artillery shells and drones,” said Mr. Saldo.

Citing what he said was first-hand information from Russia’s “Dnepr” military grouping, he said Ukrainian forces were pinned down in basements in the day and predicted the Ukrainian assault would be thwarted.

The village of Krynky lies close to the Dnipro around 30 km northeast of the city of Kherson, which Ukraine recaptured almost exactly a year ago.

Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, described the front line as “fairly fluid” and said Kyiv’s forces had been putting Russian troops under pressure along the river.

“The pushback from our side is taking place on a line from three to eight km along the entire bank from the water’s edge,” she said.

“For now, we will ask for informational silence ... which would allow us to report later on great successes,” she said in televised comments.

Reuters could not independently verify either side’s accounts.

Russia has largely held Kyiv’s counteroffensive at bay in the southeast, but an advance in occupied Kherson region could spread their defences thinner and ratchet up pressure.

“Against all the odds, Ukraine’s defence forces have gained a foothold on the left [eastern] bank of the Dnipro,” President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff said on Tuesday.

The official, Andriy Yermak, said that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which it launched in June, was “developing” and that Kyiv knew “how to achieve victory.”

Russia’s military said last week its forces had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to forge a bridgehead on the eastern bank and nearby islands, inflicting heavy losses.

Mr. Yermak made his remarks during a trip to the United States, a key ally of Kyiv that has provided vital military assistance since the February, 2022, invasion, although questions now swirl over the sustainability of such aid.

While cautious not to compromise any of its operations, Kyiv has been eager to tout its battlefield successes after the much-vaunted counteroffensive, now more than five months old, has retaken a only series of villages and no big settlements.

Russian troops seized Kherson region in the early days of their invasion, but retreated a year ago from the city of Kherson and other positions on the western side of the river.

This week, in a highly unusual incident, two Russian state news agencies published alerts saying Moscow was moving troops to “more favourable positions” east of the river, language it has used in the past to describe retreats.

The agencies quickly withdrew the news report, which Russia’s Defence Ministry said was false.

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