Ukrainian forces launched a barrage of rockets towards the city of Melitopol on Saturday night, hitting a hotel and restaurant complex, according to the governor of Russia’s newly incorporated Zaporozhye Region, Yevgeny Balitsky.
The attack took place around 9pm local time and was supposedly carried out using the US-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Two of the rockets were reportedly intercepted by the air defenses, but the remaining four missiles hit a cottage estate on the outskirts of the city and “completely obliterated” a small recreation center, killing and injuring patrons and staff, Balitsky said in a Telegram post.
Two people were killed on the spot, while another ten were rushed to hospitals, the governor added. At least three of the victims are reportedly in critical condition, with doctors fighting for their lives.
Footage shared by the official shows several houses on fire, with firefighters and rescuers working at the scene. In the meantime another extremely graphic video has been making rounds online, purportedly showing the immediate aftermath of the strike with several victims lying on the ground in agony and first responders trying to relieve their pain.
Zaporozhye was officially declared part of Russia in early October, along with Kherson Region and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, after voters in those regions overwhelmingly supported the move in public referendums. Sitting near the Sea of Azov, Melitopol had a population of nearly 149,000 before the conflict.
Kiev has rejected the ballots and the change of status and pledged to use military force to oust Russia from all lands that Ukraine considers its own. Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that he wants all people living in what his government terms “temporary occupied territories” back under Kiev’s jurisdiction, but threatened to punish “collaborators” who cooperated with Russia.
Governor Balitsky, who turned 53 on the day of the attack, accused “Kiev nazis” of “deliberately targeting civilians” who were trying to enjoy a peaceful Saturday evening, in an apparent attempt to make life unbearable for the residents of newly incorporated Russian territories.
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