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KIEV – Russia launched a barrage of missiles on Ukrainian-held parts of Kherson on Thursday, with eyewitnesses reporting casualties at a school where displaced people fleeing the rising waters of the Dnipro River were sheltering.
The shelling came soon after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited a waypoint where people were being evacuated from flooded areas and called for « a clear and swift global response » to Tuesday’s shelling of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which Kiev ei its allies say the Kremlin orchestrated it.
« Orcs just fired on school #2 where people from flooded houses were gathering » She said Yevhen Rischuk, exiled Ukrainian mayor of the occupied town of Oleshky, badly hit by floodwaters. « Orcs » is the nickname Ukrainians use for the Russian forces.
Subsequently the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine reported that nine civilians were injured in the city of Kherson.
According to numerous eyewitnesses, the shelling targeted the main evacuation routes from the city of Kherson, which Ukraine recaptured from invading Russian forces in last fall’s counter-offensive. It came as hundreds of volunteers, police officers and journalists from around the world were working along major routes out of the flooded areas and into Kherson.
“They are bombing the evacuation points,” Bogdan Logvynenko, founder of the Ukrainian media project, told POLITICO. Logvynenko has been volunteering in the area since Wednesday.
Ukrainian freelance journalist Kristina Berdynskykh was working when Russian bombs rained down near one of the evacuation points.
“So many boats, so many volunteers, doctors, rescuers working when the bombing started. I don’t know how far it was from us. We started running for cover. We hid in a nearby building and waited there while the shelling continued, » Berdynskykh said.
Logvynenko and Berdynskykh said they used a lull in the shelling to run to safety.
On Wednesday, Zelenskyy told POLITICO’s parent company Axel Springer that Russian forces were shooting at Ukrainian rescuers attempting to reach those trapped in the flood-hit areas of occupied Kherson. “As soon as our helpers try to save them, they get shot,” Zelenskyy said.
« The Russians are bombing the coast and the central district » of Kherson, the governor of the region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said in a statement.
Prokudin said the water level in Kherson rose by 5.61 meters on Thursday morning. He said 600 square kilometers of the Kherson region is under water, of which 32% is on the Ukrainian bank of the Dnipro River and 68% on the Russian-occupied bank.
Before the bombing, both Ukraine and Russia provided initial reports on the number of victims of the flooding, with Ukrainian authorities saying at least three people had died in the Russian-occupied town of Oleshky and the mayor of Nova Kakhovka named by the Russians, Vladimir Leontiev, saying five people had drowned in the area.
This is a developing story.