(Kherson) Ukraine on Saturday denounced an act of “terror” and “revenge” after a Russian strike on the Kherson market that left at least 10 dead and 55 injured, ten months to the day after the start of the invasion of Moscow troops.
“As families in Europe, North America and beyond prepare festive dinners, spare a thought for Ukraine which is fighting evil right now,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba implored on Twitter.
For his Defense counterpart Oleskiï Reznikov, the strike on Kherson is “revenge on its inhabitants who resisted the Russian occupation”. Kherson was liberated on November 11 by the Ukrainian army, after eight months of occupation.
“In the morning, on Saturday, on Christmas Eve, in the city center. These are not military installations. This is not a war by the set rules. It’s terror, it’s killing to intimidate and [prendre] fun,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lambasted on social media.
According to the latest report on Saturday evening from the governor of the Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevich, “at the moment, we have 55 wounded […] and 10 dead. Among the injured, 18 are in serious condition.
In Kherson, an AFP team saw many inert bodies strewn on the ground.
“The rescuers tried to save him, but he was not breathing,” laments a woman whose husband, Oleksiï, died instantly. Squatting, staring into space, she holds the bloody jacket of the deceased in her hands.
According to Leonid Tataryne, a 38-year-old resident, “there was a bombardment on a store, then on the market” central and around.
Oleksandre Koudriachov, 43, is struggling to recover from the disappearance of “Liosha”, a man who “worked here for 20 years or more. […] He was selling meat. At the time of the strike, “he had gone out to have a cigarette”, he says.
Near the Kherson market, AFP saw a man with serious head injuries, his car blown up by the power of the explosion.
A woman, dressed in a red coat, was lifeless a few meters away, her arms outstretched. A tearful person nearby was being comforted by a paramedic.
Further on, two men were seriously injured at a pedestrian crossing.
Flames also rose from the market, a place frequented on Saturday morning and located in the heart of Kherson.
In total, “66 cars burned” in the strike, according to relief.
The Russian army had not reacted at the end of the afternoon.
Vladimir Saldo, head of the pro-Russian administration in Kherson, blamed the attack on the Ukrainian military, decrying “a sickening provocation aimed of course at blaming the armed forces of the Russian Federation”.
On Friday, Kherson had already been the target of 74 Russian strikes, according to regional authorities, leaving a total of five dead and 22 injured, according to the regional administration.
In the east, Russian strikes are still “regular” on Bakhmout, which the Russians have been trying to take since the summer, the Ukrainian presidency lamented.
“Freedom comes at a high price. But the price of slavery is even higher,” Mr. Zelensky said during his evening address. “We have been resisting since the beginning of the war. We resisted attacks, threats, nuclear blackmail, terrorism, missile strikes. Let’s resist this winter. Because we know what we are fighting for”.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, whose country is mediating between Kyiv and Moscow, admitted that “this war does not seem to be ending easily”.
45 billion in US aid
To deal with this Russian offensive, Kyiv has been calling for new Western financial and military aid for several weeks.
On Friday, two days after a visit by Volodymyr Zelensky to Washington, the US Congress adopted a vast federal services finance bill, of which 45 billion dollars (42.2 billion euros) will go to Ukraine.
“It’s really not – as the President of Ukraine said the other night – about charity. It’s about security, it’s about working together,” said outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Russian invasion profoundly affects the Ukrainian economy, which is now almost solely focused on the war effort.
The cereal harvest in the country, one of the world’s main producers, will fall by around 40% this year compared to 2021, according to an estimate by sector professionals at AFP.
In addition, the Ukrainian justice sentenced “two mercenaries” and “two Russian soldiers” to 11 years in prison for having “tortured” three Ukrainian soldiers in early September in the Izium region (east), the prosecution announced on Saturday.
“They had been kidnapped and kept in a recreation center without water or food. The occupiers hit one of the (soldiers) with a hammer on his bones”, he detailed, adding that “the four men admitted their guilt and apologized”.