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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dnipro Massacre, A Perfect Embodiment Of Russia's War

Russian writer Maxim Katz breaks down what it means when a missile is destined for an ordinary apartment block, and death counts start to lose their meaning.

Photo of a doll found in the rumble of an apartment block in Dnipro, Central Ukraine

Doll found in the rumble of an apartment block in Dnipro, Central Ukraine

Maxim Katz


Footage of destroyed buildings, fires and horrified civilians are flooding news feeds this week after yet another Russian missile attack struck a Ukrainian residential building – this time on Jan. 14 in the eastern city of Dnipro.

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Any reasonable viewer would have felt sick to their core.

As of Jan. 17, local authorities have said the strike killed 40 people. Another 34 remain trapped under the rubble.

This war has drastically changed our perception of reality.

What happened to one apartment block could easily be dwarfed by the whole cities that Russian aggression has wiped off the map: Mariupol, Soledar, Bakhmut — all reduced to piles of rubble. These 40 confirmed deaths are on top of a still unknown number of lives, both civilian and military, claimed after almost 11 months of war.

A single human life is no longer a meaningful statistic.

Statistics, now, are measured in hundreds and thousands. This is another tragedy of the war.

Far from front line

The nearest frontline is some one hundred miles away from Dnipro.

This was just a residential building – a typical nine-storey block, the kind that is in no short supply in any post-Soviet republic. Most Russians themselves – in fact, anyone who was born in the former Soviet Union – grew up in blocks just like this one. And if they didn’t, they would have visited friends, schoolmates and relatives who certainly would have.

From the wreckage, we can easily imagine the layout of the apartments, the design of the condos, the furniture. And yet this run-of-the-mill apartment block, struck by a missile, has met a violent end.

This barbaric act exemplifies the war.

This is precisely what is most tragic about this attack: the fact that it hits so close to home for so many. It’s not just a destroyed block; it's a common lifestyle and common experiences, all razed to the ground.

This barbaric act exemplifies the war. The war where Russian forces don’t just kill people; they take away their homes, their sense of security and their life as they knew it. We can all empathize with this.

A typical apartment block​

Photo of rescue operations outside a destroyed apartment block in Dnipro, central Ukraine.

Rescue operations outside an apartment block in Dnipro in Central Ukraine.

Cover Images /ZUMA

Counterproductive terror

This attack occurred in the midst of a discussion among Western powers on whether to send tanks to Ukraine. Allies are considering unprecedented aid packages, with Britain already promising the delivery of the Challenger 2 tank.

Even the most cautious governments, like Germany, are beginning to provide straightforward assessments and take real action. They cease to worry about imaginary “red lines” and fears of “escalation.” It’s time to provide Ukraine with weapons that would be enough to ensure the country’s defense and victory.

The Russian government seems to feel that the time is right to rid any remaining seeds of doubt from the minds of skeptical Western politicians. Those who thought it would be best to make a deal, who dithered, who wanted to avoid making final decisions – surely they can no longer hold back.

Was it really the right time to remind the world of the pure evil that they, the Kremlin cronies, stand for? Why provide this gruesome reminder that a leopard never changes its spots? That we are ISIS armed with missiles. That any attempts to make a deal with us will lead to nowhere but regret.

False premise

The battlefield is locked in a stalemate. Russian leadership is in disrepair. Ukraine is receiving more military and financial support than ever. With this backdrop, taunting the Ukrainian military staff and Western politicians is tantamount to a suicide mission. If Russia cannot wholly refrain from bombing houses and infrastructure, it would at least make sense not to drop bombs on an innocent residential block in a city miles from the frontline.

The war never promised benefits.

But this logic is based on a false premise: that the war itself had a purpose, and that this purpose could be marred by attacks like this; that the war promised benefits and now these benefits are less likely to bear fruit because of how it has been waged.

This is fundamentally not the case. The war never promised benefits. The truth is that since the morning of February 24, 2022, nothing could have happened – not even the make-believe scenario of the capture of Kyiv by nightfall, flowers and cheering crowds greeting Russian soldiers – nothing that would have created a positive outcome for Russia. Instead, we were guaranteed nothing but an unmitigated disaster.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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