KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Seven Russian rockets slammed into residential buildings in the southern Ukrainian town of Zaporizhzhia before dawn Thursday, killing one person and trapping at least five in the town near the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, said the governor of the majority Russian city. -occupied region said.
The strikes came just hours after Ukraine’s president announced that the country’s military had taken over three more villages in one of the areas illegally annexed by Russia.
Governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on his Telegram channel that many people were rescued from multi-storey buildings, including a 3-year-old girl who was taken to hospital for treatment. He first reported that two people had been killed, but later said that a woman initially thought to be dead was saved by medics.
Photos provided by the emergency services showed rescuers rushing through the rubble of the wreckage of a devastated building.
Regional authorities reported another rocket attack later in the morning, but there were no immediate details of casualties or what was hit.
Deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office Kyrylo Tymoshenko said 10 people were killed in the latest Russian attacks in Dnipro, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.
Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed on Wednesday in violation of international law and is home to a nuclear power plant under Russian occupation. The city of the same name remains under Ukrainian control.
The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog is expected to travel to Kyiv this week to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia facility after Putin on Wednesday signed an executive order declaring Russia taking control of the plant at six reactors. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called it a criminal act and said it considered Putin’s decree “null and void”. State nuclear operator Energoatom said it would continue to operate the plant.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, plans to speak with Ukrainian officials about the Russian decision. He will also discuss efforts to establish a secure protective zone around the facility, which was damaged in the fighting and saw staff, including its director, kidnapped by Russian troops.
Grossi will travel to Moscow for talks with Russian officials after a stopover in Kyiv.
Meanwhile, leaders from more than 40 countries are meeting in Prague on Thursday to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and prosperity across the continent, a day after the Kremlin opened the door to new land seizures in Ukraine.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “certain territories will be reclaimed and we will continue to consult with residents who would be willing to embrace Russia.”
Peskov did not specify which additional Ukrainian territories Moscow is considering, nor did he say whether the Kremlin plans to hold more “referendums” in Ukraine that the Ukrainian government and the West have dismissed as illegitimate.
The precise borders of areas claimed by Moscow remain unclear, but Putin has pledged to defend Russian territory – including annexed areas – with all means at his military’s disposal, including nuclear weapons.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Ukrainian army had taken over three more villages in the Kherson region. Novovoskrysenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka are all located northeast of Kherson.
Ukrainian forces recapture villages in Kherson in humiliating battlefield defeats for Russian forces that have severely damaged the image of a strong Russian military and added to tensions surrounding an ill-planned mobilization. They have also fueled fighting between Kremlin insiders and left Putin increasingly stuck.
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian army said the Ukrainian flag had been raised over seven villages in the Kherson region previously occupied by the Russians. The closest of the liberated villages to the city of Kherson is Davydiv Brid, about 100 kilometers (60 miles).
Deputy head of Ukraine’s regional government, Yurii Sobolevskyi, said military hospitals were full of wounded Russian soldiers and Russian military doctors lacked supplies. Once stabilized, Russian soldiers are sent to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
When Russian troops retreated from the town of Lyman in Donetsk over the weekend, they withdrew so quickly that they left the bodies of their comrades behind. Some were still lying by the side of the road leading into town on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s presidential office said another 10 bodies of people killed during the Russian occupation had been found in the past 24 hours in Lyman and Sviatohirsk after their capture.
Lyman suffered heavy damage both during the occupation and when Ukrainian soldiers fought to retake it. Mykola, a 71-year-old man who gave only his first name, was among about 100 residents who lined up on Wednesday asking for help.
“We want the war to end, for the pharmacy, stores and hospitals to start operating again as before,” he said. “Now we have nothing yet. Everything is destroyed and looted, a complete disaster.
In his evening speech, a defiant Zelensky broke into Russian to tell the leaders in Moscow that they have already lost the war they launched on February 24.
“You lost because even now, on this 224th day of full-scale warfare, you must explain to your society why all this is necessary.”
He said Ukrainians know why they are fighting.
“And more and more Russian citizens are realizing that they have to die just because a person doesn’t want to end the war,” Zelensky said.