Strike kills 25 as Kremlin moves to annex Ukraine regions

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Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct.1: Russia pounded Ukrainian cities with missiles, rockets and suicide drones, with one strike reported to have killed 25 people, as it moved Friday to fold more seized Ukrainian territory into Russia itself and under the protection of its nuclear umbrella, opening an internationally condemned dangerous new phase of the seven-month war.

But even as it prepared to celebrate the incorporation into Russia of four occupied Ukrainian regions, defying international law and the prospect of further Western sanctions, the Kremlin was facing another stinging battlefield loss. Russian and Western analysts reported the imminent Ukrainian encirclement of the city of Lyman, that — if retaken — could open the path for Ukraine to push deep into one of the very regions that Russia is annexing.

Salvos of Russian strikes reported in four Ukrainian cities together amounted to the heaviest barrage that Russia has unleashed for weeks. It follows analysts’ warnings that Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to dip more heavily into his dwindling stocks of precision weapons and step up attacks as part of a strategy to escalate the war to an extent that would shatter Western support for Ukraine.

In the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, anti-aircraft missiles that Russia has repurposed as ground-attack weapons rained down on people who were waiting in cars to cross into Russian-occupied territory, so they could bring family members back across the front lines, said the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

The general prosecutor's office said 25 people were killed and 50 wounded. The strike left deep impact craters and sent shrapnel tearing through the humanitarian convoy's lined-up vehicles, killing their passengers. Nearby buildings were demolished. Trash bags, blankets and, for one victim, a blood-soaked towel, were used to cover bodies.

Russian-installed officials in Zaporizhzhia blamed Ukrainian forces for the strike, but provided no evidence.

Russian strikes were also reported in the city of Dnipro. The regional governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, said at least one person was killed and five others were wounded by Russian Iskander missiles that slammed into a transportation company, destroying buses, and that also damaged high-rise buildings.

In Mykolaiv, a Russian missile struck a high rise and wounded eight people, said the regional head, Vitaliy Kim.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to give a major speech at a Kremlin ceremony to fold the Ukranian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into Russia. Their pro-Moscow administrators would sign annexation treaties in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin also issued decrees recognizing the supposed independence of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, steps he previously took in February for Luhansk and Donetsk and earlier for Crimea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, meanwhile, called an emergency meeting of his National Security and Defense Council and denounced the latest barrage of Russian strikes.


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