Sixteen civilians were killed on Wednesday in heavy Russian shelling of Ukraine’s Kherson region that hit a hypermarket, a railway station and residential buildings, Ukrainian officials said.
Twelve of the victims were in the city of Kherson, the southern region’s capital, where a hypermarket came under fire as people were doing their morning shopping and explosions tore through a railway station.
Four more were killed in villages outside the main city in attacks from areas of the Kherson region still occupied by Russia. They included three engineers trying to repair damage inflicted on the power grid in earlier Russian bombardments.
Pools of blood and piles of debris lay on the ground outside the Kherson hypermarket, whose entrance had been heavily damaged and cordoned off, Reuters correspondents on the scene said.
The interior ministry said the victims were all either customers or workers at the hypermarket.
“When the enemy can achieve nothing on the battlefield, it strikes at peaceful cities,” Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi said.
Many windows were smashed at the railway station, and at least two survivors were seen being carried out on stretchers. Three women who had been eating at the time of the attack said they took cover under a table.
The prosecutor’s office said 22 people had also been wounded in Kherson city in “chaotic shelling and strikes on civilian infrastructure facilities.”
“We cannot negotiate with Russian murderers. They must be brought to justice. Or destroyed”, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said in a statement.
Russia did not comment on the attacks in Kherson, one of four Ukrainian regions it said it annexed last September.
Moscow has stepped up air strikes on Ukraine in the past few days as Kyiv prepares for a counteroffensive in which it is expected to try to retake occupied territory in Kherson region.
Ukrainian troops recaptured Kherson city last November after nearly eight months of occupation, but Russian troops retreated only as far as the opposite side of the Dnipro River, from where they now shell the city.
Regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin on Wednesday announced a curfew in Kherson city to last from Friday evening until Monday morning for “law enforcement” reasons. He gave no other explanation.