A Russian rocket attack pounded apartment buildings and other targets in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens, officials said.
Shocking footage circulated on social media by Ukrainian officials showed rescue workers pulling an elderly woman from the debris this morning after the attack reduced one high-rise residential building to rubble and damaged neighbouring structures.
An earlier clip saw rescue workers and forlorn residents picking their way over the mounds of twisted metal and smashed bricks as they searched for survivors and attempted to salvage what little remained from the devastation.
City council secretary Anatoly Kurtev said at least 20 private homes and 50 apartment buildings were damaged in the blasts, in addition to the high-rise that was flattened.
The Ukrainian military also confirmed the attack, saying there were dozens of casualties.
The multiple strikes came after a Saturday morning explosion caused the partial collapse of a bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, damaging an important supply artery for the Kremlin’s faltering war effort in southern Ukraine and hitting a towering symbol of Russian power in the region.
Russian president Putin had previously warned that any attack on Crimea’s bridges would hasten ‘judgment day’ and several Russian officials called for retaliation in the wake of the blasts.
Rescuers gather past a residential building damaged after a strike in Zaporizhzhia
A view shows a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine October 9, 2022
The twisted remains of a car lie in front of an apartment building destroyed in Zaporizhzhia
An old woman is pulled out of the debris this morning following rocket attacks on Zaporizhzhia overnight
The attack reduced one high-rise residential building to rubble and damaged neighbouring structures
Bags with the bodies of people found dead are placed outside a residential building which was heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine October 9, 2022
Russia in recent weeks has repeatedly struck Zaporizhzhia, which is in the Ukrainian controlled-part of a region that Putin annexed in violation of international law last week.
On Thursday, at least 19 people died in Russian missile strikes on apartment buildings in the southern city, which lies just 80 miles from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
‘Again, Zaporizhzhia. Again, merciless attacks on civilians, targeting residential buildings, in the middle of the night,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote in a Telegram post.
‘Absolute meanness. Absolute evil. … From the one who gave this order, to everyone who carried out this order: they will answer. They must. Before the law and the people,’ he added.
Residents of a building damaged overnight gathered behind police tape watching the smouldering remains of several floors that collapsed from the blast, leaving a chasm at least 40ft wide where apartments once stood.
Rescue workers tried to reach the upper floors.
While Russia targeted Zaporizhzhia several times prior to Saturday’s explosion on the Crimea bridge, last night’s missile attack will likely be seen as a retributive action as it came just hours after the damage was dealt to the symbol of Russian power in the annexed peninsula.
No-one has yet claimed responsibility for damaging the bridge.
Some Russian legislators called for Putin to declare a ‘counter-terrorism operation’, rather than the term ‘special military operation’ that has downplayed the scope of fighting to ordinary Russians.
A handout photo made available by by the Ukrainian Presidential press service shows Ukrainian rescuers work on the shelling place of residential building in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, 09 October 2022
Russia in recent weeks has repeatedly struck Zaporizhzhia, which is in the Ukrainian controlled-part of a region that Putin annexed in violation of international law last week (aftermath of last night’s attack is pictured)
Rescue workers and forlorn residents picking their way over the mounds of twisted metal and smashed bricks as they searched for survivors and attempted to salvage what little remained from the devastation
Rescuers work at the scene of a building damaged by shelling in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine (Ukrainian Emergency Service via AP)
Hours after the bridge explosion, Russia’s Defence Ministry announced that the air force chief, General Sergei Surovikin, would now command all Russian troops in Ukraine.
Gen. Surovikin, who this summer was placed in charge of troops in southern Ukraine, had led Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a bombardment that destroyed much of Aleppo.
The 12-mile Kerch Bridge, on a strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is a symbol of Moscow’s claims on Crimea and an essential link to the peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Train and car traffic over the bridge was temporarily suspended, though car traffic resumed on Saturday afternoon on one of the two links that remained intact and rail traffic resumed slowly yesterday evening.
Zelensky in a video address yesterday indirectly acknowledged the bridge attack but did not address its cause.
‘Today was not a bad day and mostly sunny on our state’s territory,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, it was cloudy in Crimea. Although it was also warm.’
Workers are pictured repairing the railway line section of the bridge over the Kerch Strait this evening on Putin’s orders
Dramatic CCTV footage showed the moment the deadly bridge blast took out a key supply line
Putin (pictured addressing an audience in the Kremlin last month) is expected to escalate war
He also said Ukrainian forces advanced or held the line in the east and south, but acknowledged ‘very, very difficult, very tough fighting’ around the city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russian forces have claimed recent gains.
Russia has ramped up its strikes on the city of Zaporizhzhia since formally absorbing the surrounding region on September 29.
The regional governor of Zaporizhzhia reported that the death toll had risen to 32 after Russia’s missile strike on a civilian convoy making its way out of the city on September 30.
In a Telegram post, Oleksandr Starukh said that one more person died in hospital on Friday.
A part of the Zaporizhzhia region currently under Russian control is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power station.
Fighting has repeatedly imperilled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, and Ukrainian authorities shut down its last operating reactor last month to prevent a radiation disaster.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said on Saturday that the Zaporizhzhia plant has since lost its last remaining external power source as a result of renewed shelling and is now relying on emergency diesel generators.
The Crimean Peninsula is a popular destination for Russian tourists and home to a Russian naval base.
A Russian tourist association estimated that 50,000 tourists were in Crimea on Saturday.