KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched a flurry of rocket, drone and missile attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities overnight from Thursday to Friday, creating scenes of destruction inside Ukraine as the Kremlin planned an elaborate and widely disliked annexation ceremony in Moscow. .
The deadliest attack hit Zaporizhzhia, one of four Ukrainian provinces that Moscow plans to declare part of Russia on Friday as part of an annexation process the West has condemned as a farce and comes after a humiliating battlefield defeat. .
The attack killed at least 25 civilians waiting at a checkpoint and a bus stop, and injured around 50, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, making it one of the deadliest single attacks on civilians in the last weeks.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine condemned the strike as the work of “terrorists”, while Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, called it “horrible news”.
“In the midst of its losses on the battlefield, Russia continues to attack Ukrainian civilians, one more demonstration that Ukraine’s struggle is not only a struggle for freedom and sovereignty, but also for survival,” he said. he wrote on Twitter.
A strike also hit residential neighborhoods in Mykolaiv, killing at least three and wounding 19, the regional governor said. Russian strikes also hit a bus station in the city of Dnipro, and Ukraine’s military said at least half a dozen Iranian-made kamikaze drones had been fired at targets in southern Ukraine.
Zaporizhzhia Governor Oleksandr Starukh said a rocket had hit a convoy of cars lined up at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city. People in the convoy were hoping to be allowed into Russian-occupied territory to pick up relatives and deliver humanitarian aid, he said.
“They were all civilians, our compatriots,” Starukh said in a message on the Telegram social media app. He declared Saturday a day of mourning.
Zaporizhzhia, a large regional center on the Dnipro River, is often the first port of call for civilians fleeing Russian-controlled territory further south.
But every day there are also long convoys of vehicles heading in the other direction, towards Russian-controlled territory. They are usually people who go to check on their elderly relatives and volunteers in trucks that transport humanitarian aid, particularly medicines.
Because the checkpoint on the outskirts of the city does not work according to a schedule, people line up early in the morning and sometimes wait all day for a chance to pass.