A barrage of Russian missiles overnight killed at least 13 people and wounded more than 60 others in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian officials reported Sunday, as Moscow attempted to enforce its claim to the illegally annexed territory that Ukraine still controls.
The attack on apartment buildings and houses came hours after a truck bomb explosion Saturday caused the partial collapse of the Kerch Bridge linking mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. The bridge has been a major munitions and troop supply route for Russian attacks in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials strongly suggested they had carried out the attack without directly claiming responsibility.
In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy indirectly acknowledged the 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.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Zelenskyy adviser, lauded the attack, tweeting, “Crimea, the bridge, the beginning. Everything illegal must be destroyed, everything stolen must be returned to Ukraine, everything occupied by Russia must be expelled.”
Russian Foreign Ministry representative Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram, “The Kyiv regime’s reaction to the destruction of civilian infrastructure highlights its terrorist nature.”
The Ukrainian postal service announced it would issue stamps commemorating the blast, saying in a statement that the images would draw on classic film posters to highlight the bridge’s “sacred significance” to Moscow. The postal service previously released a set of stamps commemorating the sinking of the Moskva, a Russian flagship cruiser, by a Ukrainian strike in late May.
Russian divers are set to examine the extent of the bridge damage Sunday.
The blasts in Zaporizhzhia, triggered by six missiles, collapsed at least one high-rise residential building and blew out the windows of others, the Ukrainian air force said. The region is one of four Russia claimed as its own this month after illegal referendums not sanctioned by international law, but the regional capital remains under Ukrainian control.
Despite the attack on the Zaporizhzhia apartment building, battlefield losses have mounted for Russia, including across some lands Moscow claims it has annexed. Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine in an invasion that now is in its eighth month.
U.S. President Joe Biden said days ago that a Russian nuclear attack would amount to Armageddon, a biblical reference to the last fight between good and evil.
U.S. national security spokesman John Kirby told ABC’s “This Week” show Sunday that Biden’s comment was an accurate reflection of Biden’s assessment that “the stakes are high in Ukraine,” but was not based on any new U.S. intelligence that Putin is about to launch a nuclear attack.
Still, Kirby said Putin “has shown every indication” that he wants to continue the war in Ukraine.
The national security spokesman said he had no new information on the bridge explosion, but added, “What I can tell you is that Mr. Putin started this war and Mr. Putin could end it today, simply by moving his troops out of the country.”
The European Union’s top diplomat Saturday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Russia’s attempt to annex the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, and said Russia’s forces must fully withdraw from the plant and return control of it to Ukraine.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s seizure of the nuclear power plant “illegal, and legally null and void,” and said a reinforced International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “presence at the site and its unhindered access to the plant are urgently needed in the interest of the security of Europe as a whole.”
Earlier Saturday, the IAEA reported that the Zaporizhzhia plant had lost its only external power source as a result of renewed Russian shelling and was forced to rely on emergency diesel generators.
All six reactors at the plant are shut down, but they still require electricity for cooling and other safety functions. The IAEA said plant engineers have begun work to repair the damaged power line.
IAEA chief Rafael Grossi is traveling to Moscow to hold talks in the coming days about establishing a protection zone around the plant. He was in Ukraine Friday and met with Zelenskyy regarding the situation. Transferring the plant to Russian ownership, Grossi said, is a violation of international law.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.