Russian Missile Strike Kills Dozens of Civilians in Ukraine

By Jonathan Landay

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Dozens of civilians were killed or wounded in a cynical Russian missile attack on a convoy of civilian cars in southern Ukraine on Friday, according to Kyiv, leaving bodies strewn on the ground.

The convoy had gathered at a car market on the outskirts of the city of Zaporizhzhia and was preparing to leave Kyiv-controlled Ukrainian territory to visit relatives and deliver supplies in Russian-held territory, officials said.

Car windows were blown out by the impact of the missile attack and their sides were sprayed by shrapnel, a Reuters witness said.

A body leaned from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat of a yellow car, left hand still gripping the steering wheel.

“The enemy rages, seeking vengeance for our steadfastness and failure. He is cynically destroying peaceful Ukrainians because he lost everything human long ago,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on the messaging app Telegram.

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“Bloodthirsty scum! You will definitely answer. For every Ukrainian life lost!”

Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhia region, put the initial death toll at 23 dead and 28 wounded in the attack, which took place hours before President Vladimir Putin was due to declare Russian rule over Zaporizhia and three other provinces where Moscow has held power since the invasion conquered territory of Ukraine.

Andriy Yermak, head of Zelenskyy’s office, later said 25 were killed and 50 wounded in an attack by a “terrorist state”.

Russia denies targeting civilians. Vladimir Rogov, an official with the Russian-installed administration in the Zaporizhia region, blamed Ukrainian forces for the attack.

Police Colonel Sergey Uyryumov, head of the explosives disposal unit of the Zaporizhia Police Department, said the car market was hit by three S300 missiles.

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Ujryumov told Reuters that the Russian military “knows that columns are being formed here to go to the occupied territories. They had the coordinates.”

“It’s not a random strike. It’s totally intentional,” he said.

BODIES ON THE FLOOR

The vehicles were packed with the occupants’ belongings, blankets and suitcases. Plastic sheets were draped over the bodies of a woman and a young man in a green car. A dead cat lay next to the young man in the back seat.

Two bodies lay in a white minivan in front of another car, the windows of which had been blown out and the sides riddled with shrapnel.

The body of an elderly woman lay nearby, with her shopping bag beside her.

Another woman, who gave her name as Natalia, said she and her husband visited their children in Zaporizhia.

“We returned to my mother, who is 90 years old. We were spared. It’s a miracle,” she said, standing by her car with her husband.

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Nikola Rusak, a 62-year-old delivery driver from southern Kherson province, survived the attack unharmed as he slept in his minivan parked about 20 meters (yards) from a row of auto parts shops that were hit by a missile.

“I couldn’t understand what happened,” he said. “I got out and saw people running. I was dazed. I just stood there, frozen. I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

Rusak said he slept in the vehicle for five days after dropping off relatives in Zaporizhizia and waited for a call urging him to join the convoy for the journey home to care for his elderly mother.

(Reporting by Jonathan LandayAdditional reporting by Aleksandar VasovicEditing by Timothy Heritage, William Maclean and Frances Kerry)