Russian missiles slam into Ukrainian city near threatened nuclear plant

An apartment building is partially collapsed onto cars in Ukraine.
Rescuers work at the scene of a building heavily damaged by Russian shelling in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Thursday.
(Ukrainian Emergency Service)

Russia launched two missile attacks that hit apartment blocks in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia on Thursday, killing three people and wounding at least 12 in a region that houses Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant and that Moscow has illegally annexed.

The missile strikes, the first before dawn and another in the morning, damaged more than 40 buildings, local authorities said. The attacks came just hours after Ukraine’s president announced that the country’s military had retaken three more villages in one of the four regions illegally annexed by Russia, the latest battlefield reversal for Moscow.

Zaporizhzhia regional Gov. Oleksandr Starukh wrote on his Telegram channel that many people were rescued from the multistory buildings, including a 3-year-old girl who was taken to a hospital.


Photos provided by emergency services showed rescuers scrambling through rubble in the wreckage of a devastated building looking for survivors.

“The terrorist country has shown its beastly face by converting defense weapons into offensive weapons and killing peacefully sleeping people,” Starukh wrote.

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

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Zaporizhzhia is one of four regions that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed in violation of international law Wednesday, 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 United Nations’ nuclear watchdog is expected to visit Kyiv this week to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia facility after Putin signed a decree Wednesday declaring that Russia was taking over the six-reactor plant. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called it a criminal act and said it considered Putin’s decree “null and void.” The state nuclear operator, Energoatom, said it would continue to operate the plant.


Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, plans to talk with Ukrainian officials about the Russian move. He will also discuss efforts to set up a secure protection zone around the facility, which has been damaged in the fighting and seen staff members, including its director, abducted by Russian troops.

Grossi will travel to Moscow for talks with Russian officials after his stop in Kyiv.

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The U.S. sent its international development chief to Kyiv on Thursday, the highest-ranking American official to visit Ukraine since Putin’s annexation announcement.

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, was holding meetings with government officials and residents. She said the U.S. would provide an additional $55 million to repair heating pipes and other equipment.

USAID said the U.S. has delivered $9.89 billion in aid to Ukraine since February. A spending bill signed by President Biden last week promises another $12.3 billion directed both at military and public services 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 were meeting in Prague on Thursday to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at boosting security and prosperity across the continent.

“What you will see here is that Europe stands in solidarity against the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir told reporters at Prague Castle, a day after the Kremlin held the door open for further land grabs in Ukraine.

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

The precise borders of the areas Moscow is claiming remain unclear, but Putin has vowed to defend Russia’s territory — including the annexed regions — with any means at his military’s disposal, including nuclear weapons.

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Ukrainian army had recaptured three more villages northeast of Kherson city.

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Ukrainian forces are seizing back villages in Kherson in humiliating battlefield defeats for Russian forces that have badly dented the image of a powerful Russian military and added to the tensions surrounding Moscow’s ill-planned partial mobilization. They have also fueled fighting among Kremlin insiders and left Putin increasingly cornered.

In his address, a defiant Zelensky switched to speaking Russian to tell the Moscow leadership that it has already lost the war that it launched Feb. 24.

“You have lost because even now, on the 224th day of full-scale war, you have to explain to your society why this is all necessary,” he said, adding that Ukrainians knew what they themselves were fighting for.

“And more and more citizens of Russia are realizing that they must die simply because one person does not want to end the war,” Zelensky said.