At least 25 people have been killed and 50 wounded in a Russian missile attack on a humanitarian convoy in Zaporizhia, southern Ukraine, the region’s prosecutor’s office reported Friday.
Zaporizhia Governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Friday that Russian forces had attacked a humanitarian convoy headed for Russian-occupied territory and published images of burned vehicles and bodies lying on the road. According to Starukh, the members of the convoy were on their way to pick up their relatives and get them to safety.
“The enemy launched an attack on a convoy of civilians and the outskirts of the city. People were lining up to leave for the occupied territory to collect their families and deliver aid. There are dead and wounded. Emergency services are on the spot,” Starukh said on his Telegram channel.RELATED
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, said Russian forces launched 16 missiles, reports Guardian. Tymoshenko said four missiles struck near an auto parts market where the convoy had assembled on Friday.
In the images published by the Ukrainian authorities and on social networks, at least one large crater is observed near the vehicles.
Governor’s office spokesman Volodymyr Marchuk told Guardian that the site of the attack was a logistics center to allow people to enter the Russian-occupied territories.
“The Russians only accept 150 cars a day, so that’s why we created a program, where people could come and register and get their number in line,” Marchuk said. “So at 7:15 in the morning [hora local] there were a large number of cars waiting their turn to cross, mostly people who wanted to go drop off help for their relatives and maybe pick up people who wanted to go out around the corner.”
The spokesman said that they attacked that line of cars with an S-300 missile and called what happened a “deliberate war crime” and a “terrorist act”. “There is no doubt that it is a deliberate war crime. They always say that they point at a military object and hit something else. But there are no military objects near that site. That is why there is no doubt that it is a terrorist act,” he said.
A Reuters news agency witness said he saw bodies lying on the ground or still in vehicles at the sprawling car market on the outskirts of the city. Police and emergency personnel have rushed to the site of the missile’s impact, which hurled chunks of earth into the air and showered vehicles with shrapnel, the agency reports. The windows of most of the vehicles were blown out.
The cars were full of the belongings of their occupants, blankets and suitcases. A woman who spoke to Reuters said that she and her husband had been visiting her children in Zaporizhia. “We came back with my mother, who is 90 years old. We have been saved. It’s a miracle,” she said standing with her husband next to her car.
According to locals with whom he spoke GuardianSome 60 cars had gathered on a highway in two lines after registering for a convoy that was to take people back to the Russian-occupied territories of southern Ukraine. Some planned to return to their homes in places like Mariupol, others wanted to search for their relatives and take them to the Ukrainian-controlled territories. They fear that Russia will prevent people from leaving after Putin signs the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories on Friday.
Standing on the road, Dalina Yakushava, 48, told Guardian who had come after the explosion to see if he could sign up for a convoy.
“This is where the authorities tell people to come register to join a convoy. You register online, but I came to make sure that they had given me permission. I live in Mariupol. We just took our daughter to Poland, but we have to go back because my parents are there. It is terrible, but it is our home,” Yakushava said. “There were a lot of cars waiting to leave this morning because no one has been able to get into the occupied zones for the last week.”
This attack comes on the same day that Putin is expected to sign the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories after the pseudo-referendums held in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson.
According to the authorities representing Russia in the occupied territories, between 87.05% and 99.23% of the voters – forced to participate by the Russian military with house-to-house ballot boxes in an unrecognized process – in the partially controlled by Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine supported annexation to Russia. The vote has been widely criticized by all international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), one of the international organizations of reference in election observation. The OSCE has described the votes as “illegal”.
The Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, denounced this Thursday “the so-called referendums” and said that they represent one more obstacle to any peace agreement.