A barrage of Russian rocket-propelled grenades bombed residential buildings and other targets in the area Ukrainian At least 17 people were killed in the city of Zaporizhia, officials said Sunday.
The blasts in the city, which remains under Ukrainian control but is in an area Moscow claims to belong to, destroyed windows in nearby buildings and left at least one apartment building partially collapsed.
The multiple strikes came after Saturday’s blast caused an explosion Partial collapse of a bridge connecting Crimea with Russia. The Kerch Bridge attack damaged an important supply route for the faltering Kremlin war effort in southern Ukraine, an artery that is also a prominent symbol of Russia’s power in the region.
The bombing came a day after the Russian president Russian President Vladimir Putin At 70, he was dealt a humiliating blow that one military analyst described as a punch in the face for Putin on his birthday, CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reports.
City Council Secretary Anatoly Kortev said that the missiles that bombed Zaporizhia during the night damaged at least 20 private homes and 50 apartment buildings. Kortev said on Telegram that at least 40 people had been taken to hospital.
The Ukrainian military confirmed the attack, saying that dozens of dead and wounded.
Residents gathered behind police tape near a building where several floors had collapsed from the explosion, leaving a burning hole at least 40 feet wide in the spot where the apartments were once.
Tetiana Lazonko, 73, and her husband, Oleksiy, hunkered down in the hallway of their upstairs apartment after the sirens sounded, warning of an attack. They survived the worst of the blast that left them in fear and disbelief.
“There was an explosion. Everything was shaking,” Lazonko said. “Everything was flying and I was screaming.”
Shards of glass, entire window and door frames, and other debris covered the outer floors of the apartment they’d been living in since 1974. Lazonko cried relentlessly, wondering why their home was targeted in an area with no military infrastructure in sight.
“Why are they bombing us. Why?” She said.
Lazonko said Oleksiy, who was sitting quietly leaning on a wooden stick, was hit by three blows. He slowly broke his silence and said slowly, “This is international terrorism. You cannot escape from it.”
In recent weeks, Russia has repeatedly bombed Zaporizhia, the capital of a region of the same name which Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed last week in violation of international law. At least 19 people died Russian missile strikes on residential buildings in the city on Thursday.
“Again, Zaporizhzhya. Again, brutal attacks on civilians, targeting of apartment buildings, in the middle of the night,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote in a post on Telegram.
He added: “Absolute meanness. Absolute evil… Who gave this order, to everyone who carried out this order: they answer. They must. Before the law and the people.”
While Russia targeted Zaporizhia before Saturday’s explosion on the Crimean bridge, the attack was a major blow to Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. No one has claimed responsibility for the bridge’s destruction.
Putin signed a decree late Saturday tightening security on the bridge and energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia, placing Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, in charge of the effort.
Some Russian lawmakers have called on Putin to declare a “anti-terror operation” rather than the term “special military operation” that reduced the scope of the fighting for ordinary Russians.
Hours after the explosion, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that the commander of the Air Force, General Sergei Sorovikin, would now command all Russian forces in Ukraine. Surovkin, who this summer was appointed in charge of forces in southern Ukraine, commanded Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing the bombing that devastated much of Aleppo.
The 19-kilometre (12-mile) Kerch Bridge, located 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 that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
The $3.6 billion bridge, the longest in Europe, is vital to the continuation of Russian military operations in southern Ukraine. Putin himself presided over the opening of the bridge in May 2018.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a video address, indirectly admitted the attack on the bridge but did not address its causes.
“Today was not a bad day and it was mostly sunny on our state land,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was overcast in the Crimea. Although it was also warm.”
Zelensky said Ukraine wanted a future “without occupiers. All over our territory, especially in Crimea.”
Zelensky also said Ukrainian forces had advanced or held the line in the east and south, but acknowledged “extremely difficult fighting” around the city of Pakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russian forces have made recent gains.
The movement of trains and cars across the bridge has been temporarily suspended. Russia-backed leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said vehicular traffic resumed Saturday afternoon on one of the two links that remained unchanged, with the flow alternating in each direction.
The Russian Transport Ministry said on Telegram Sunday that passenger train traffic between Crimea and the Russian mainland resumed overnight “as scheduled”.
In a separate Telegram post on Sunday, the ministry said car ferries are also operating between Crimea and the mainland, with the first crossing taking place just before 2 a.m. local time (11 p.m. GMT).
While Russia captured areas of northern Crimea early in its invasion of Ukraine and built a land corridor along the Sea of Azov, Ukraine is pressing a counterattack to retake that area as well as four areas illegally annexed by Putin this month.
Russia has intensified its strikes on the city of Zaporozhye since it formally absorbed the surrounding area on September 29.
The governor of Zaporizhzhya province reported that the death toll had risen to 32 after the Russian missile strike on a civilian convoy making its way out of the city on September 30. .
Part of the Zaporizhzhia region currently under Russian control is home to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The fighting has repeatedly put the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya at risk, and Ukrainian authorities last month shut down its last working reactor to prevent a radiological disaster.
The Zaporizhzhya plant has since lost its last external source of energy as a result of renewed bombing, and is now dependent on emergency diesel generators, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said on Saturday.
Crimea is a popular destination for Russian tourists and home to a Russian naval base. A Russian tourist association estimated that 50,000 tourists were in Crimea on Saturday.
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