Washington Post reporters the day before had spoken with the men who had joined the convoy: some were doctors, who had crossed battle lines to perform life-saving surgeries at hospitals that Russian forces had failed to adequately restock; The others were ordinary civilians, trying to save loved ones who were too old or unable to make the journey on their own.
At about 7 a.m. on Friday, three suspected Russian missiles destroyed those plans. Explosions shook the asphalt. Corpses and shrapnel were scattered on the ground.
Ukrainian officials said at least 26 people were killed and 85 wounded.
Ukrainian officials said the strikes were part of a wave of Russian missile, missile and drone attacks launched across the southeast as Putin prepared to announce his annexation. The contrast between the “great liberation mission” that Putin claimed to have carried out in occupied Ukraine and the brutal reality of the war he inflicted on the people here could not be clearer.
“I will treat the heart patients as best I can there, or I will put them in the car and bring them back here myself,” Surgeon Vitaly, 69, said the day before, shrugging off the risks with a smile. “I’ll be fine.”
A mustard-colored Lada was there among the wreckage on Friday.
Vitaly was one of a handful of survivors who suffered from shell shock. His face was a picture of sadness. Some of the dead were lying next to their cars, or near the bush where they were looking for safety.
When one of Vitaly’s comrades received a phone call, the comrade answered and said, simply, “I am here and I am alive,” and then ended the call.
Friday’s strikes sent shock waves across a city already transformed by Putin’s war. Hospitals moved as the wounded poured into emergency rooms. Volunteers who had spent months converting the parking lot of a large supermarket into a welcome point for civilians fleeing occupied areas to relocate to another location, fearful of possible strikes on other humanitarian sites.
At the last checkpoint in Russian-controlled territory, fear and confusion spread into a line of Ukrainian vehicles full of civilians trying to flee. Passengers later said that Russian soldiers walked between the cars and told the drivers that the Ukrainian military was responsible for the strikes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Buffalo, 23, from the town of Tokmak. Like others interviewed, he spoke on the condition that only his first name be used, fearing repercussions for his family members in Russian-controlled territory.
“We had to keep driving. The other option was to stay at home and recruit Russians to fight against my Ukrainian colleagues.
As Putin announces a partial mobilization of Russians at home, Ukrainians in the newly annexed territories fear that they may now be forced to fight their own compatriots.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed since Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into what appear to be war crimes on a large scale.
In a move that reversed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russian soldiers and local puppet authorities held referendums across the territory they control in the Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, with more than 90% victories recorded in each.
Fleeing residents say some votes were collected at gunpoint.
At the new welcome point in Zaporizhzhia, no one was watching Putin’s annexation speech. They already knew what he was going to say, and most families were focused on finding a place to spend the night.
When asked about Putin’s recent statement – that they are now Russian citizens “on the basis of historical unity” – many residents raised their eyes. The newcomers said they hoped the Ukrainian military, which has slashed Russian gains in the east in recent weeks, could one day reclaim territory that Putin claimed belonged to him.
One of the volunteers, a 17-year-old named Yaroslav, said he plans to enlist once he reaches the legal age of 18. He said that local separatist soldiers allied with Russia now live in his house in the town of Zaporizhia. from Enerhodar. He said he spoke to them before he fled, and they told him they had never believed that a Russian invasion would take them so far.
“We have seen people suffer, we have seen people die because of this war,” said Yaroslav. “Why?”
As night fell in Avtorinok, the possessions of the dead were still on the ground. A small picture was placed in the tall grass. He showed a cheerful young couple, who seemed very in love.
“I miss you so much,” read a note on the back. “back to.”
Serhiy Korolchuk from Zaporizhia contributed to this report.
The war in Ukraine: what you need to know
Last: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to The annexation of four occupied regions of Ukraine, after interim referendums were widely denounced as illegal. Follow us Live updates here.
the answer: The Biden administration announced on Friday a New round of sanctions against RussiaIn response to the annexations, it targeted Russian and Belarusian government officials, family members, military officials, and defense procurement networks. As President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday, so is Ukraine Apply for a “quick ascent” to NATOIn clear response to the annexations.
In Russia: Putin announced military mobilization On September 21 to call up to 300,000 reserve soldiers In a dramatic attempt to reverse the setbacks in his war on Ukraine. advertising led to exodus From More than 180,000 peopleespecially The men who were subject to serviceAnd the Renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.
Fighting: Ukraine launched successful counterattack who – which Russia forced a major withdrawal in the northeastern Kharkiv region In early September, when the troops fled the cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and Abandoned large amounts of military equipment.
Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the start of the war. Here are some of their most powerful works.
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