A view shows a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on October 9, 2022.
Stringer | Reuters
A Russian airstrike hit apartment buildings and other targets in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least 17 people and injuring dozens, authorities said Sunday.
The explosions in the city, which remains under Ukrainian control but is in a region Moscow has claimed as its own, blew out windows in adjacent buildings and left at least one high-rise apartment building partially collapsed.
The multiple attacks came after an explosion caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean peninsula with Russia on Saturday. The attack on the Kerch bridge damaged an important supply route for the Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine, an artery that is also a towering symbol of Russia’s power in the region.
Rockets that hit Zaporizhzhia overnight damaged at least 20 private houses and 50 apartment buildings, city hall secretary Anatoliy Kurtev said. At least 40 people were hospitalized, Kurtev said on Telegram.
The Ukrainian military confirmed the attack, saying there were dozens of casualties.
Residents gathered behind police tape next to a building where several floors collapsed in the blast, leaving a smoking chasm at least 40 feet wide where the apartments stood.
Tetyana Lazun’ko, 73, and her husband, Oleksii, took refuge in the hallway of their top-floor apartment after hearing sirens warning of an attack. They were spared the worst of the blast which left them in fear and disbelief.
“There was an explosion. Everything was shaking,” Lazun’ko said. “Everything was flying and I was screaming.”
Distressed local residents sit at a site in a residential area heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on October 9, 2022.
Stringer | Reuters
Shards of glass, entire window and door frames and other debris covered the outer floors of the apartment where they had lived since 1974. Lazun’ko cried inconsolably, wondering why his home in an area with no military infrastructure in sight was the goal.
“Why are they bombing us? Why?” she said
Oleksii, who was sitting quietly, leaning on a wooden stick, was hit three times, Lazun’ko said. Breaking his silence, he said slowly, “This is international terrorism. You can’t escape it.”
In recent weeks, Russia has repeatedly struck Zaporizhzhia, which is the capital of a region of the same name that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed last week in violation of international law. At least 19 people were killed in Russian missile attacks on apartment buildings in the city on Thursday.
“Again, Zaporizhzhia. Once again, merciless attacks on civilians, targeting residential buildings, in the middle of the night,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a Telegram post.
“Absolute pettiness. Absolute wickedness… From whoever gave this order, to all those who carried out this order: they will answer. They must. Before the law and the people,” he added.
Although Russia had targeted Zaporizhzhia before Saturday’s explosion on the Crimean bridge, the attack was a major blow to Russia, which annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. No one has claimed responsibility for damage the bridge
Putin on Saturday afternoon signed a decree strengthening the security of the bridge and energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia, putting Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, in charge of the effort.
Some Russian lawmakers called for Putin to declare it an “anti-terrorist operation,” rather than the term “special military operation,” which has downplayed the scope of the fight to ordinary Russians.
Hours after the explosion, Russia’s defense ministry announced that the head of the air force, General Sergei Surovikin, would now command all Russian troops in Ukraine. Surovikin, who was in charge of troops in southern Ukraine this summer, had led Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a bombardment that destroyed much of Aleppo.
The 19-kilometer (12-mile) Kerch Bridge, on a strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is a symbol of Moscow’s claims to Crimea and an essential link to the peninsula, which Russia annexed in Ukraine in 2014.
The $3.6 billion bridge, Europe’s longest, is vital to maintaining Russia’s military operations in southern Ukraine. Putin himself presided over the opening of the bridge in May 2018.
This video capture taken and released on October 8, 2022 shows thick black smoke rising from a fire at the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea with Russia.
– | Afp | Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a video address, indirectly acknowledged the attack on the bridge but did not address its cause.
“Today has not been a bad day and it has been mostly sunny in the territory of our state,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea. Although it was also hot.”
Zelenskyy said Ukraine wants a future “without occupiers. All over our territory, in particular in Crimea.”
Zelenskyy also said that Ukrainian forces advanced or held the line in the east and south, but acknowledged “very, very difficult and 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 was temporarily suspended. Car traffic resumed Saturday afternoon on one of two links that remained intact, with flow alternating in each direction, Russia-backed Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov said.
The Russian transport ministry told Telegram on Sunday that passenger train traffic between Crimea and the Russian mainland resumed overnight “as planned”.
In a separate Telegram post on Sunday, the ministry said car ferries were also operating between Crimea and the mainland, with the first crossing made shortly before 2 a.m. local time (23:00 GMT).
While Russia seized areas in northern Crimea early in its invasion of Ukraine and built a land corridor there along the Sea of Azov, Ukraine is pressing a counteroffensive to retake that territory as well as four regions that Putin illegally annexed this month.
Russia has stepped up its attacks on the city of Zaporizhzhia since it formally absorbed the surrounding region on September 29.
The regional governor of Zaporizhzhia reported that the death toll had risen to 32 after Russia’s missile attack on a civilian convoy leaving the city on 30 September. In a Telegram post, Oleksandr Starukh, one more person died in the hospital on September 30. Friday.
Rescuers and volunteers carry a bag with the body of a civilian found dead in a residential area heavily damaged by a Russian missile attack, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on October 9 2022.
Stringer | Reuters
A 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 prevent a radiation disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, said on Saturday that the Zaporizhzhia plant has since lost its last remaining source of external power as a result of the new bombing and that now relies on emergency diesel generators.
The Crimean peninsula is a popular destination for Russian tourists and is home to a Russian naval base. A Russian tourism association estimated that 50,000 tourists were in Crimea on Saturday.