December 9, 2022

KYIV (AP) – Seven Russian rockets slammed into residential buildings in Zaporizhzhya before dawn Thursday, killing two people and trapping at least five in the city close to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, the governor of the largely Russian-occupied region said .

The strikes came just hours after the Ukrainian president announced that the country’s military had recaptured three more villages in one of the regions. illegally annexed by Russia.

Governor Oleksandr Starukh wrote on his Telegram channel that many people were rescued from the multi-storey buildings, including a 3-year-old girl who was taken to a hospital for treatment.

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

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog is expected to visit Kiev this week to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhya facility, after Putin signed a decree on 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’s 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 to Ukrainian officials about the Russian move. He will also discuss efforts to establish a safe zone of protection around the facility, which has been damaged and seen during the fighting. personnel, including the director kidnapped by Russian troops.

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Grossi will travel to Moscow after a layover in Kiev for talks with Russian officials.

Meanwhile, leaders from more than 40 countries are: meeting in Prague on Thursday to launch a “European Political Community” aimed at increasing security and prosperity across the continent, a day after the Kremlin held the door open to further land grabs in Ukraine.

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

Peskov did not specify what additional Ukrainian territories Moscow is looking at, and would not say whether the Kremlin planned to host more of the “referendums” in Ukraine that the Ukrainian government and the West have denounced as illegal.

The exact boundaries of the areas Moscow claims remain unclear, but Putin has vowed to defend Russian territory — including its annexed regions — with all the means at its disposal, including nuclear weapons.

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

Ukrainian troops are take back villages in Kherson in humiliating battlefield defeats to Russian troops that have seriously tarnished the image of a powerful Russian army and heightened tensions over an ill-planned mobilization. They have also fueled fighting between Kremlin insiders and increasingly cornered Putin.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian army said the Ukrainian flag had been hoisted over seven villages in the Kherson region previously occupied by the Russians. The closest of the liberated villages to the town of Kherson is Davydiv Brid, about 100 kilometers away.

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The deputy head of the Ukrainian regional government, Yurii Sobolevskyi, said military hospitals were full of wounded Russian soldiers and Russian military medics had no supplies. Once stabilized, Russian soldiers will be sent to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

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

Lyman suffered heavy damage both during the occupation and as Ukrainian soldiers fought to retake it. Mykola, a 71-year-old man who only gave his first name, was one of about 100 residents who queued for help on Wednesday.

“We want the war to end, for the pharmacy, shops and hospitals to work as they used to,” he said. “We don’t have anything yet. Everything is being destroyed and looted, a complete disaster.”

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

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

He said Ukrainians know what they are fighting for.

“And more and more citizens of Russia are realizing that they have to die simply because one person doesn’t want to end the war,” Zelenskyy said.

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Hanna Arhirova in Kiev contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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