Russian attack on buildings in Zaporizhzhia kills 12


A Russian barrage pounded apartment buildings and other targets in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens, officials said.

Explosions in the city, which is in an area Moscow has claimed as its own, blew out windows of adjacent buildings and left at least one apartment building partially collapsed.

The multiple strikes came after an explosion on Saturday caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to Russia, damaging an important supply artery for the Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine and striking an imposing symbol of Russian power in the region.

City council secretary Anatoliy Kurtev said rockets hit Zaporizhzhia overnight and at least 20 private homes and 50 apartment buildings were damaged.

Rescuers work at the scene of a shell-damaged building in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP)

At least 40 people were admitted to hospital and dozens more were being treated for moderate to light injuries, Mr Kurtev said on his Telegram channel.

The Ukrainian military also confirmed the attack, saying there were dozens of casualties.

In recent weeks, Russia has repeatedly struck the southern city, which is in the Ukrainian-controlled part of a region that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed last week in violation of international law.

At least 19 people also died on Thursday when Russian missiles fired at apartment buildings in Zaporizhzhia.

“Again, Zaporizhzhia. Again, merciless attacks on civilians, targeting residential buildings, in the middle of the night,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote in a Telegram post.

“Absolute wickedness. Absolute evil. … From him who gave this order, to all who carried out this order: they will answer. They must. Before the law and the people,” he added.

Residents of a building damaged overnight gathered behind police tape to watch the smoldering remains of several stories that crumbled from the blast, leaving a sinkhole at least 40 feet wide where the apartments used to be there.

Rescuers tried to reach the upper floors.

As Russia targeted Zaporizhzhia ahead of Saturday’s explosion on the Crimean Bridge, the attack was a blow to Russia, which annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

No one has claimed responsibility for damaging the bridge.

Mr Putin on Saturday evening signed a decree strengthening the security of the bridge and energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia, and tasked Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, with the effort.

Some Russian lawmakers have called on Mr Putin to declare an “anti-terrorist operation”, rather than the term “special military operation” which has downplayed the scale of the fighting for ordinary Russians.

Hours after the explosion, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Air Force Chief General Sergei Surovikin would now command all Russian troops in Ukraine.

General Surovikin, who this summer was put in charge of troops in southern Ukraine, had led Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a bombardment that destroyed much of Aleppo.

The 19-kilometre (12-mile) long Kerch Bridge over a strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov is a symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea and a vital link to the peninsula, which Russia has annexed to Ukraine in 2014.

The $3.6 billion bridge, the longest in Europe, is vital to supporting Russian military operations in southern Ukraine.

Mr. Putin himself presided over the opening of the bridge in May 2018.

Mr. Zelensky, in a video address, indirectly acknowledged the attack on the bridge but did not address its cause.

“Today was not a bad day and mostly sunny in the territory of our state,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea. Although it was also hot.

Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine wanted a future “without occupiers. Throughout our territory, especially in Crimea”.

He also said Ukrainian forces had advanced or held the line to the east and south, but acknowledged “very, very difficult, very tough fighting” around the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russian forces have claimed recent gains.

Train and car traffic on the bridge has been temporarily suspended.

Car traffic resumed on Saturday afternoon on one of the two links that remained intact, the flow alternating in each direction, said the head of Crimea, supported by Russia, Sergey Aksyonov.

Rail traffic slowly resumed.

Two passenger trains left the Crimean cities of Sevastopol and Simferopol and headed for the bridge on Saturday evening.

Passenger ferry connections between Crimea and the Russian mainland were restarted on Sunday.

Flames and smoke rise from the Crimean Bridge connecting the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula over the Kerch Strait, in Kerch, Crimea
Flames and smoke rise from the Crimean Bridge connecting the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula over the Kerch Strait in Kerch, Crimea (AP)

As Russia seized areas north of Crimea at the start of its invasion of Ukraine and built a land corridor there along the Sea of ​​Azov, Ukraine is launching a counter-offensive to recover this territory as well as four regions illegally annexed by Mr. Putin this month.

Russia has stepped up its strikes against the city of Zaporizhzhia since it formally absorbed the surrounding region on September 29.

The regional governor of Zaporizhzhia reported that the death toll rose to 32 after Russian missiles struck a civilian convoy leaving the city on September 30.

In a Telegram post, Oleksandr Starukh said another person died in hospital on Friday.

Part of the Zaporizhzhia region currently under Russian control is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

The fighting has repeatedly endangered the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and Ukrainian authorities shut down its last operating reactor last month to avert a radioactive disaster.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said on Saturday that the Zaporizhzhia power plant had since lost its last external power source following further bombardment and was s now relied on backup diesel generators.

The Crimean Peninsula is a popular destination for Russian tourists and is home to a Russian naval base.

A Russian tourist association estimated that 50,000 tourists were in Crimea on Saturday.


Comments are closed.