Russian rockets hit Ukrainian city near nuclear plant

Kyiv, Ukraine –

Seven Russian rockets slammed into residential buildings in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia before dawn Thursday, killing one person and trapping at least five in the town near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. said the governor of the mostly Russian-occupied region.

The attacks came just hours after Ukraine’s president announced that the country’s armed forces had retaken three more villages in one of Russia’s illegally annexed regions, the latest setback on the Moscow battlefield.

Governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on his Telegram channel that many people were rescued from the multi-story buildings, including a 3-year-old girl who was taken to a hospital for treatment. He initially reported that two people died, but later said that doctors saved a woman who was initially thought to have died.

Photos provided by emergency services showed rescuers struggling through rubble in the remains of a devastated building.

Regional authorities reported another rocket attack later in the morning, but there were no immediate details of the casualties or what was hit.

The deputy head of the office of the President of Ukraine, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said that 10 people had been killed in the latest Russian attacks in the Dnipro, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed on Wednesday in violation of international law, and is home to a nuclear plant that is under Russian occupation. The city of the same name remains under Ukrainian control.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog is expected to visit Kyiv this week to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia facility after Putin signed a decree on Wednesday declaring Russia would take over the six-reactor plant. 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 move. He will also discuss efforts to establish a secure protection 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.

The United States sent its chief of international development to Kyiv on Thursday, the highest-ranking US official to visit Ukraine since Russia illegally annexed the four regions.

The director of the United States Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, met with government officials and residents. She said the US would provide an additional $55 million to repair heating pipes and other equipment.

USAID said the United States has delivered $9.89 billion in aid to Ukraine since February. A spending bill signed by US President Joe Biden last week promises another $12.3 billion directed at both military and public service needs. Power said Washington plans to release the first $4.5 billion of that funding in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, leaders from more than 40 countries will meet in Prague on Thursday to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and prosperity across the continent, a day after the Kremlin left the door open for more land grabs in Ukraine.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “certain territories will be reclaimed and we will continue to consult residents who would be eager to embrace Russia.”

The precise boundaries of the areas claimed by Moscow remain unclear, but Putin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory, including annexed regions, with all means at his military’s disposal, including nuclear weapons.

In his evening video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the Ukrainian army had recaptured three more villages in the Kherson region. Novovoskrysenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka are located northeast of Kherson.

Ukrainian forces are retaking villages in Kherson in humiliating battlefield defeats for Russian forces that have severely damaged the image of a powerful Russian military and added to tensions surrounding a poorly planned mobilization. They have also fueled clashes between members of the Kremlin and left Putin increasingly cornered.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian military said the Ukrainian flag had been raised over seven villages in the Kherson region previously occupied by the Russians. The closest of the liberated towns to the city of Kherson is Davydiv Brid, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away.

The deputy head of Ukraine’s regional government, Yurii Sobolevskyi, said military hospitals were overflowing with wounded Russian soldiers and Russian military doctors were short of supplies. Once they are stabilized, the Russian soldiers will be sent to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

When Russian troops withdrew from the Donetsk town of Lyman over the weekend, they withdrew so quickly that they left behind the bodies of their comrades. Some still lay on the side of the road leading into the city on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s presidential office said that 10 more bodies of people killed during the Russian occupation were recovered in the last 24 hours in Lyman and Sviatohirsk after their recovery.

Lyman was heavily damaged both during the occupation and when Ukrainian soldiers fought to recover it. Mykola, a 71-year-old man who gave only his first name, was among 100 residents who lined up for help on Wednesday.

“We want the war to end, for the pharmacy and the stores and the hospitals to work as before,” he said. “Now we don’t have anything yet. Everything is destroyed and looted, a complete mess.”

In his late-night speech, a defiant Zelenskyy switched to Russian to tell Moscow’s leadership that it has already lost the war it launched on February 24.

“You have lost because even now, on the 224th day of the full-scale war, you have to explain to your society why all this is necessary.”

He said that the Ukrainians know what they are fighting for.

“And more and more citizens of Russia realize that they must die simply because a person does not want to end the war,” Zelenskyy said.


Hanna Arhirova contributed to this report.

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