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The Putin Poison Pill

Pressure is growing on the Biden administration—both from its more traditional Democratic allies and hawkish Republican critics—to go bigger, faster, better on all fronts to help Ukraine’s fight against Putin’s war. Photo: Contributor/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
January 17, 2023

There comes a moment that can pierce even the muddy, bloody monotony of 21st century trench warfare and capture what nearly a year of war has meant for the Ukrainian people. On Saturday, a Russian cruise missile landed on a residential highrise in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro. The missile took out an entire nine-story entryway of the building, on the Victory Embankment, leaving a giant hole in the middle and killing—as of this writing—at least 45 people, one of the deadliest attacks on Ukrainian civilians in this horrific war. 

The stories that came out of that building were like something off of a grotesque New Yorker cover, or a modern Bosch painting. On one floor there was a 24-year-old woman, who had somehow survived in her bedroom on a middle floor, while her parents and cat disappeared with their kitchen into the abyss, clinging to a stuffed dinosaur, sobbing. (Her boyfriend, it later turned out, had been killed at the front a couple months prior.) On the eighth floor was a young man who had climbed up to search for his girlfriend, Eva, digging through the cement plates by hand until rescuers physically dragged him away. The cheery yellow kitchen shorn of an outer wall, now a diorama hanging perilously over a gray, wartime city. All weekend, social media circulated that image juxtaposed with a happy family—a mother, father, and three young girls—celebrating a child’s birthday in that very kitchen. The mother and daughters had gone out for a walk that Saturday and missed the missile’s arrival. The father wasn’t so lucky.