November 26, 2022

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Russian missile strikes have killed at least 73 people in and around the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia in the past two weeks and wounded more than 200 others, the region’s police chief said on Tuesday, making the city an epicenter of recent attacks by Russian forces.

In the last week, Russian forces have launched almost nightly attacks on the city, a major first stop for civilians fleeing fighting further south, using missiles and drones, hitting apartment blocks and targets including an orphanage and a medical facility, the police chief, Artem Kysko, said Tuesday.

“There was not a single military object close to the strikes so this is targeted action by the Russian Federation to inflict and to achieve demoralization and in this way to impact the population,” he told journalists. In all, 48 missiles have hit the city since Sept. 30 and the attacks appeared to be timed to maximize loss of life, Mr. Kysko said.

While 242 people, including 10 children, have died in the city since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February, the attacks have escalated since August, he said. The military purpose of the strikes is not clear and they have failed to stop a Ukrainian counteroffensive to reclaim land in the south.

In the most deadly attack, on Sept. 30, at least 30 people died and 88 others were wounded when a convoy of cars and minivans waiting at a checkpoint on the city’s outskirts to leave the region was struck by three missiles.

The attacks have escalated with President Vladimir V. Putin’s declaration that the province that surrounds the city, also called Zaporizhzhia, and three others where fighting continues to rage, were part of Russia. That annexation process, which followed referendums that have been denounced as staged, has been rejected as illegal by Kyiv and governments around the world.

Ukraine says it has reclaimed hundreds of square miles of territory in Kherson Province since late August. Fighting has driven thousands of people from their homes, many heading northeast through the city of Zaporizhzhia.

An attack on Sunday night was typical, Mr. Kysko said. Ten missiles, including the long-range surface-to-air S-300 system, rained down on the city, killing 14 people, including a child, and wounding 78 others, he said. Rescue workers were still removing debris and 17 people could still be buried, Mr. Kysko said.

One person died when 12 missiles struck the city on Tuesday, destroying an orphanage and a boarding school, he said.

Zaporizhzhia Province is also the site of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which has been in the midst of recent fighting and missile strikes, raising fears of a nuclear accident.

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