Putin ‘s latest victim from the rubble of the Russian strike in Mykolaiv . achieved

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    MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — It happened in a flash.

    Alla, 37, said she was awakened by a sudden burst of light while sleeping at her home in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv early Thursday. Then, she said, a pungent odor filled her nostrils as it became clear that her home had been hit by a Russian attack.

    Immediately, her thoughts turned to her 11-year-old son, Artem, she said. NBC News has chosen not to disclose the last names of Alla, her husband Ruslan and their son for privacy and security reasons.

    Artem screamed for help and couldn’t move, she said, adding that much of their five-story building had collapsed on his ground-floor bedroom.

    “He was conscious. He tried to talk to us,” Alla added. “He was shocked.”

    It took rescuers seven hours to get Artem out. His legs were broken and he was taken to a regional hospital for dialysis as his condition worsened.

    But frantic efforts to keep the boy alive ultimately failed – Artem died later Thursday of heart failure, the latest victim of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

    Artem died after being pulled from the rubble when his home was hit in the attack. (Supplied to NBC News)

    Earlier, a video shared by Ukrainian rescue officials showed Artem being pulled from the rubble and placed on a stretcher while moaning in pain.

    The video then shows Artem’s distraught father, a 42-year-old driving instructor, running alongside him and stopping to kiss him on the head before being loaded into an ambulance.

    Their house, a simple brick building, had a gaping hole where the roof and top-floor apartments once stood. NBC News spotted it just hours after it was hit by what local officials said was one of eight Russian missiles that landed in the city that night.

    Russia has unleashed a barrage of deadly attacks on cities across Ukraine in recent days, hitting the heart of the capital Kiev, Lviv to the west and Kharkov to the northeast, in apparent retaliation for an explosion Saturday that left a important bridge was damaged Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula.

    Putin said on Monday the airstrikes were in response to what he said was Kiev’s long record of “terrorist” actions, including the explosion of a bridge.

    After the attack on Mykolaiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised that Moscow would be held responsible for any such attack. “Just punishment awaits you,” he said in a message on his Telegram channel.

    Alla, now homeless, blaming “Russian terrorists” for what happened and “ruining our lives,” said she and her family would stay with relatives as they devise their next steps.

    The top floor of a residential building was completely destroyed on Thursday after a strike in Mykolaiv.  (NBC news)

    The top floor of a residential building was completely destroyed on Thursday after a strike in Mykolaiv. (NBC news)

    A body is recovered from the rubble by members of the Ukrainian emergency services.  (NBC news)

    A body is recovered from the rubble by members of the Ukrainian emergency services. (NBC news)

    Another resident of Mykolaiv, Olena Myschanets, said she feared the fate of her older sister, Olga, and her niece, Oksana, who she said lived on the top floor of the same building as Alla, Ruslan and Artem. .

    She said they hadn’t returned any of her messages.

    “I pray hard that they are still alive,” said Myschanets, 56, as she swallowed her tears. She added that she can only hope they somehow escaped the strike.

    She said she was not aware of any military sites nearby, adding that the area is a quiet residential area. Her husband, Valeri, blamed Moscow for the destruction. “Putin and his state are terrorists who must be destroyed,” he said.

    Russia has denied targeting civilians, though the wave of airstrikes it unleashed this week hit civilian areas and critical infrastructure across the country.

    Artem’s father returned to the family’s ruined apartment early Friday and picked up a few items, including toothpaste and a pair of frying pans, while others closed the shattered windows of the building.

    Ruslan collapsed when asked how his family coped with the loss of Artem.

    “I can’t believe he’s gone,” he cried.

    Gabe Joselow reported from Mykolaiv, and Yuliya Talmazan reported from London.

    This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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