Ukrainian President Mourns 500 Children Lost In Russia's 16-Month War

Amidst the grief, concerns over locked air-raid shelters intensify as civilian safety remains a critical issue in the face of ongoing attacks.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy at EPC Summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his deep sorrow and condemned Russia's ongoing war, which has tragically claimed the lives of at least 500 Ukrainian children. The somber announcement followed the discovery of the lifeless body of a 2-year-old girl, a victim of the latest Russian strikes. President Zelenskyy emphasized that the destructive power of Russian weapons and the relentless hatred behind them continue to rob Ukraine of its future potential.

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia commenced on February 24, 2022, numerous innocent lives, including those of children, have been mercilessly taken away. President Zelenskyy emphasized the immeasurable loss suffered by Ukraine, stating that many of these young lives had the potential to become distinguished scholars, artists, and sports champions, thereby enriching the nation's history.

Ascertaining the precise number of child casualties remains an arduous task due to ongoing hostilities and the occupation of certain areas by Russian forces. Despite the challenges, President Zelenskyy rallied his country to persevere and triumph over the horrors of war. He voiced his unwavering determination, proclaiming, "We must hold out and win this war! All of Ukraine, all our people, all our children, must be free from the Russian terror!"

The tragic loss of the 2-year-old girl's life unfolded as rescue workers sifted through the wreckage of an apartment building in Dnipro's suburban region. Among the 22 individuals injured in Saturday's attack, five were children. The Russians further intensified their aggression by launching additional strikes, utilizing drones and cruise missiles, targeting multiple areas, including the capital city of Kyiv.

The Ukrainian air force responded valiantly, successfully intercepting three out of the five self-exploding drones and four out of the six cruise missiles. However, two missiles found their mark on a military air base in Kropyvnytskyi, causing undisclosed damage.

In a series of recent strikes, the Russian military targeted Ukrainian air defense batteries, air bases, and troop depots. These long-range assaults coincide with Ukraine's preparations for an anticipated counteroffensive aimed at reclaiming occupied territories.

Civilian safety remains a grave concern as officials revealed that nearly a quarter of the inspected 4,800 air raid shelters were locked or rendered unusable. The distressing reality became painfully apparent when a 33-year-old woman lost her life while waiting outside a sealed shelter during a Russian missile barrage. Prosecutors initiated a criminal investigation into the woman's tragic demise, resulting in the detention of four individuals. Among them, a security guard who allegedly failed to unlock the doors remains in custody, while three others, including a local official, have been placed under house arrest.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported an overwhelming response from the public after the launch of an online feedback service, with "more than a thousand" complaints pouring in regarding locked, dilapidated, or insufficient air-raid shelters. The urgent need for immediate action to rectify this critical issue has become abundantly clear, as the safety and well-being of Ukrainian civilians remain paramount in the face of relentless attacks.

(With AP Inputs)