KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles struck apartment buildings in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, killing at least seven people and missing at least five others in a region that Moscow has illegally annexed, he said. a local official.
Two attacks damaged more than 40 buildings hours after Ukraine’s president announced that his army had retaken three more villages in another of the four regions. annexed by Russiathe last reversal of the Moscow battlefield.
Zaporizhzhia Regional Governor Oleksandr Starukh, who provided the death toll, said more than 20 people had been rescued from the multi-story apartment buildings. Rescuers who previously took a 3-year-old girl to the hospital continued to search through the rubble Friday morning. Starukh wrote on Telegram that Russian forces used S-300 missiles in the attacks.
It has been reported that Russia has converted the S-300 from its original use as a long-range anti-aircraft weapon into a missile for ground attacks due to a shortage of other more suitable weapons.
“Absolute pettiness. Absolute evil,” Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskky said of the attacks, in a video address at the inaugural summit of the European Political Community in Prague. “There have already been thousands of manifestations of such evil. Unfortunately, there may be thousands more.”
Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed as Russian territory in violation of international law. The region is home to a sprawling nuclear power plant under Russian occupation; the city of the same name remains under Ukrainian control.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, announced on Thursday after meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv that the UN atomic energy watchdog will increase the number of inspectors at the Zaporizhzhia plant from two to four.
Grossi spoke with Ukrainian officials, and will later consult in Moscow with Russian officials, on efforts to establish a protection zone around the nuclear power plant. Grossi said mines were apparently placed around the perimeter of the plant, which was damaged during the war and raised concerns about a possible radiation disaster. Zelenskyy said that Russia has stationed up to 500 fighters at the plant.
Putin signed a decree on Wednesday declaring that Russia would take over the installation of six reactors, a move Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called a criminal act that was “null and void.”
Ukraine’s state nuclear operator Energoatom said it would continue to operate the plant, whose last operational reactor was shut down on September 11 due to frequent external power outages needed to operate critical safety systems. Transmission lines to the plant have been repeatedly bombed, and Grossi reported shelling Thursday in an industrial area near the access road to the plant.
Away from the front lines, Russian authorities detained several hundred Ukrainians trying to flee Russian-occupied areas on Wednesday near the Russia-Estonia border, according to Ukraine’s Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lubinets. Citing the Estonian Interior Ministry, he wrote on Facebook that Russian forces took the Ukrainians in trucks to an unknown destination.
Most of the detained Ukrainians had fled via Russia and Crimea and were seeking to enter the European Union (Estonia is a member state) or find a way to return home, Lubinets wrote.
Russia has forced thousands of Ukrainians into “filtration camps” to determine their allegiance. Zelenskyy said Thursday that more than 1.6 million Ukrainians have been deported to Russia.
The precise boundaries of the areas in Ukraine that Moscow claims remain unclear. Putin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory, including Ukraine’s annexed Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, with all military means at his disposal, including nuclear weapons.
Ukrainian forces are recover villages in Kherson in humiliating battlefield defeats for Russian forces that have severely damaged the image of a powerful Russian military. Ukrainian officials said Thursday that they have retaken 400 square kilometers (154 square miles) of territory, including 29 settlements, in the Kherson region since Oct. 1.
Ukraine was also staging a counteroffensive in the Donetsk region, which Moscow-backed separatists have partially controlled since 2014 but remains in dispute despite Putin’s proclaimed annexation.
In the hard-hit Chasiv Yar, a city in the Donetsk region 12 kilometers (7 miles) from the heavy fighting, the human impact became apparent as retirees waited to collect their pension checks at a post office.
“We expect the victory of the Ukrainian army,” Vera Ivanovna, 81, a retired English and German teacher, said as artillery blasts rang out. “We lived in independent Ukraine like you live in the United States. We also want to live as you are living.”
At least two Russian attacks have hit Chasiv Yar in recent days, with one person buried under the rubble of a bedroom. More than 40 people were killed in July when Russian rockets hit a residential building.
Russia said it had seized the village of Zaitsevo in the Donetsk region. The governor of the neighboring Luhansk region said Ukrainian forces had recaptured the village of Hrekivka. None of the battlefield reports could be independently confirmed.
Meanwhile, the US government sent its international development chief to Kyiv on Thursday, the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine since Russia illegally annexed the four regions. The head of the US Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, met with government officials and residents and said the United States would provide an additional $55 million to repair heating pipes and other equipment.
USAID said the United States had delivered $9.89 billion in aid to Ukraine since February. A spending bill that US President Joe Biden signed last week promises another $12.3 billion for Ukraine’s military and utility needs.
“This war will be won on the battlefield, but it is also being won in Ukraine’s continued efforts to strengthen its democracy and economy,” Power told reporters at the Kyiv train station.
She said Ukraine’s success as a democratic country with a modern economy facing corruption outraged Putin.
The European Union on Thursday froze the assets of a further 37 individuals and entities linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine, bringing the total number of targets on the EU blacklist to 1,351. Those recently sanctioned included officials involved in last week’s illegal Russian annexations and bogus referendums. The latest sanctions also expand trade bans against Russia and set a price ceiling for Russian oil.
At the United Nations in New York, Russia has called for a secret vote next week on a Western-backed resolution that would condemn Russia’s annexation of the four Ukrainian regions and demand that Moscow reverse its actions. Russia apparently hopes to get more support from the 193 nations in the General Assembly if their votes are not made public.
Russia vetoed a legally binding Security Council resolution on September 30 to condemn annexation referendums in Ukraine’s four regions as illegal. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding.
Associated Press writers Hanna Arhirova in Ukraine and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine