Deadly Blast Kills 25 in Civilian Convoy Near Zaporizhzhia

A Russian missile attack targeting a humanitarian convoy in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region has killed at least 25 people and wounded 28 others, according to a regional official. The Ukrainian governor of Zaporizhzhia, Oleksandr Starukh, has declared Saturday to be a day of mourning in the region.

In a message posted to Telegram, Starukh said that the attack targeted civilians who were waiting in a civilian humanitarian convoy to leave the regional center where they’ve brought humanitarian aid for their relatives in the occupied territories.

According to locals, about 60 cars were gathered on a road in two lines after registering for the convoy aimed to take people back into the Russian-occupied territories in the south. Some of those people were planning to fetch relatives and bring them to government-occupied territory for fear that Russia will prevent them from leaving following Friday’s annexation ceremony.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack on the convoy, reiterating accusations that Russian troops – who have already denied being behind the incident, instead blaming Ukrainian forces – fire rockets at the civilian population in Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, and Dnipropetrovsk.

Meanwhile, the Russian capital is being readied for Putin’s formal announcement of the annexation of Ukrainian territory in a major escalation of its seven-month invasion.

Putin ordered on Thursday the recognition of the state sovereignty and independence of the Ukrainian regions Zaporizhzhia and Kherson which are set to be incorporated into Russia along with the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia will recognize as part of its territory the entirety of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics within their declared borders of 2014. He could not, however, immediately provide an answer about Kherson and Zaporizhzhia

The laws of DPR and LPR state that their borders encompass the whole Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine although about 40% of the eastern Donetsk region is currently under Ukrainian forces’ control.

The Russian-occupied regions previously held hastily organized referendums which claimed majorities of up to 99% in favor of joining Russia. The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on Friday on a draft resolution put forward by the US and Albania that condemns the referendums that have been the subject of considerable international backlash.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned in unusually strong language Russia’s move as a dangerous escalation of the conflict, stressing that annexation would violate the UN Charter and had no legal value.