Russia launched a series of missile attacks against civilian targets in cities in southern Ukraine on Friday as Ukrainian troops continued to make progress on two fronts after having liberated nearly 200 square miles of territory in less than a week.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, in an overnight address, said that a counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces had reclaimed “more than half a thousand square kilometers of territory and dozens of settlements” from Russian forces in the Kherson region since the start of the month.
But as Russian forces were pushed back on the ground, they continued to strike from the air, stepping up their artillery and missile attacks on civilians in urban centers. The city of Zaporizhzhia, Zelenksyy said, is “subjected to massive rocket attacks every day.”
At least 22 civilians were killed and 32 injured in Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, a senior official in Zelenskyy’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said Friday morning in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Much of Russia’s firepower was focused on the south of Ukraine, where Ukraine’s military on Friday accused Russia of using four Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones to strike Zaporizhzhia and the city of Mykolaiv.
Overnight, nearly 40 Russian rockets hit another city, Nikopol, on the western bank of the Dnieper River, damaging at least 10 homes, several apartment blocks and other infrastructure, according to the head of the regional military administration, Valentyn Reznichenko. He said further shelling Friday evening killed one man and wounded another.
Russian artillery fire in the Berislav district of Kherson province hit civilians who were in their yards, rather than sheltering, the regional police said Friday. They did not say how many people were killed or wounded.
Ukrainian officials have appealed for everybody living in the path of the offensive in the south to evacuate, and thousands have fled the fighting.
Many have gone to Zaporizhzhia, a large regional center on the Dnieper River. There, the death toll from a Thursday morning missile strike on a residential area rose to 12, local officials said.
Anatolii Kurtiev, the acting mayor of Zaporizhzhia, said at an early morning news conference that the intensity of shelling had been incredibly high in recent days and that a number of bodies were likely still under the rubble.
“We had many victims who have been injured and are in hospital, and 15 other people have been reported missing, so we continue searching for them,” he said.
Large-scale humanitarian convoys out of the city have been suspended. Russian forces were also shelling critical infrastructure in the city, he said, but the water and electricity supply was still working.
Ukrainians who live in areas now back under the country’s control face acute shortages of food and electricity, and the problems will only grow worse as winter approaches, the deputy head of the Kherson regional council, Serhiy Khlan, told journalists.