KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles hit apartment buildings in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, killing at least seven people and at least five others missing, in an area that Moscow illegally annexed, a local official said.
Two strikes damaged more than 40 buildings after Ukraine’s president announced his army had recaptured three more villages in another of the four regions annexed by Russia, the latest reversal of Moscow’s battlefield.
Zaporizhzhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh, who provided the casualty figure, said more than 20 people were rescued from multi-storey buildings. Rescuers who had earlier taken a 3-year-old girl to hospital continued to search the rubble early on Friday. Starukh wrote on Telegram that Russian forces used S-300 missiles in the attacks.
Russia reportedly converted the S-300 from its original use as a long-range anti-aircraft weapon to a missile for ground attack due to a shortage of other more suitable weapons.
“Absolute wickedness. Absolute evil,” Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskky said of the attacks, in a video speech at the inaugural summit of the European Political Community in Prague. “There have already been thousands of demonstrations of a Unfortunately, there may be thousands more.
Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed as Russian territory in violation of international law. The region is home to a sprawling nuclear power plant under Russian occupation; the city of the same name remains under Ukrainian control.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, announced after meeting Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Thursday that the UN’s atomic energy watchdog would increase the number of inspectors at the plant. Zaporizhzhia from two to four.
Grossi spoke with Ukrainian officials — and will later speak in Moscow with Russian officials — about efforts to establish a protective zone around the nuclear plant. Grossi said mines appeared to have been planted around the perimeter of the factory, which was damaged during the war and caused concern about a possible radioactive disaster. Zelenskyy said Russia stationed up to 500 fighters at the plant.
Putin on Wednesday signed a decree declaring that Russia would take control of the six-reactor facility, a decision Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called a “null and void” criminal act.
Ukraine’s state nuclear operator, Energoatom, said it would continue to operate the plant, whose last operating reactor was shut down on September 11 due to frequent external power failures needed to operate safety systems. reviews. Transmission lines to the factory were shelled several times, and Grossi on Thursday reported shelling in an industrial area near the factory’s access road.
Outside the battlefront, Russian authorities on Wednesday arrested several hundred Ukrainians trying to flee Russian-occupied areas near the Russian-Estonian border, according to Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lubinets. Citing the Estonian Interior Ministry, he wrote on Facebook that Russian forces had taken the Ukrainians in trucks to an unknown destination.
Most of the detained Ukrainians had fled Russia and Crimea and were seeking to enter the European Union – Estonia is a member state – or find a way back home, Lubinets wrote.
Russia has forced thousands of Ukrainians into “filtration camps” to determine their loyalty. Zelenskyy said Thursday that more than 1.6 million Ukrainians have been deported to Russia.
The precise borders of Ukrainian areas claimed by Moscow remain unclear. Putin has vowed to defend Russian territory – including the annexed regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine – with all means at his army’s disposal, including nuclear weapons.
Ukrainian forces recapture villages in Kherson in humiliating battlefield defeats for Russian forces that have severely tarnished the image of a powerful Russian army. Ukrainian officials said on Thursday they had retaken 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) of territory, including 29 settlements, in the Kherson region since October 1.
Ukraine has also launched a counteroffensive in the Donetsk region, which Moscow-backed separatists have partially controlled since 2014 but which remains contested despite Putin’s proclaimed annexation.
In Chasiv Yar, a town in the Donetsk region 12 kilometers from heavy fighting, the human impact became evident as pensioners waited to collect their pension checks at a post office.
“We hope for the victory of the Ukrainian army,” said Vera Ivanovna, 81, a retired English and German teacher, as artillery fire echoed. “We lived in independent Ukraine like you live in America. We also want to live as you live.
At least two Russian strikes have hit Chasiv Yar in recent days, and one person is believed to have been buried under the rubble of a dormitory. More than 40 people were killed in July when Russian rockets hit a residential building.
Russia said it had seized the village of Zaitsevo in the Donetsk region. The governor of nearby Luhansk region said Ukrainian forces had taken over the village of Hrekivka. No battlefield reports could be independently confirmed.
The US government, meanwhile, sent its international development chief to Kyiv on Thursday, the highest US official to visit Ukraine since Russia illegally annexed the four regions. US Agency for International Development director Samantha Power met with government officials and residents and said the US would provide an additional $55 million to repair heating pipes and other equipment.
USAID said the United States had provided $9.89 billion in aid to Ukraine since February. A spending bill that US President Joe Biden signed last week promises an additional $12.3 billion for Ukraine’s military and public service needs.
“This war will be won on the battlefield, but it is also won in Ukraine’s continued efforts to strengthen its democracy and economy,” Power told reporters at the Kyiv train station.
She said Ukraine’s success as a democratic country with a modern economy battling corruption infuriated Putin.
The European Union on Thursday froze the assets of 37 additional people and entities linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine, bringing the total of EU blacklist targets to 1,351. Among those newly sanctioned were officials involved in last week’s illegal Russian annexations and sham referendums. The latest sanctions also expand trade bans against Russia and prepare for a cap on Russian oil prices.
At the United Nations in New York, Russia called for a secret ballot next week on a Western-backed resolution that would condemn Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s four regions and demand that Moscow reverse its actions. Russia apparently hopes to gain more support from the 193 nations in the General Assembly if their votes are not made public.
Russia vetoed a legally binding Security Council resolution on September 30 condemning annexation referendums in Ukraine’s four regions as illegal. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding.
Associated Press writers Hanna Arhirova in Ukraine and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
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