Ukrainian rescuers inspect debris of a missile at the site of shelling in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Sunday. At least 17 persons were killed and 49 injured. Photo by Ukraine National Police/EPA-EFE
Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Russian forces blitzed the city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, firing a barrage of missiles that killed at least 17 people, Ukrainian officials said.
Anatolii Kurtiev, the acting mayor of Zaporizhzhia, said on Telegram that at least 40 other people were injured. Five homes were destroyed and dozens of buildings were damaged, including four educational institutions.
"At this time, 17 people are known to have died. Sincere condolences to the relatives," Kurtiev said.
Kurtiev said that 35 of the 40 people injured by the rocket strikes are in moderate condition and are being treated in city hospitals.
He added that two children are also being treated and are in "light condition" while Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of the Zaporizhzhia province, said that at least six children were hospitalized after the rocket strikes.
A video shared to Twitter by the citizen media organization Ukraine Front Lines shows dozens of emergency officials and volunteers sifting through the debris and looking for survivors.
Starukh said preliminary information showed that Russia had fired at least 12 missiles on Zaporizhzhia which partially destroyed a nine-floor apartment building, sharing images of the destruction on Telegram.
"There may be people under the rubble. A rescue operation is underway at the scene. Eight people have already been rescued. The victims are provided with the necessary assistance," Starukh said.
Russia has apparently been ramping up its targeting of civilians as Moscow fights to keep a hold on the four Ukrainian provinces it illegally annexed, including Zaporizhzhia - which is home to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
The rocket strikes also came a day after a blast damaged the Kerch Strait Bridge, the sole bridge linking Russia to Crimea -- the Ukrainian territory previously illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 as relations between the two countries deteriorated.
It was not immediately clear if the rocket strikes on Zaporizhzhia were linked to the destruction of the bridge, but Russian war bloggers criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for not publicly commenting on the damage to the bridge and calling for revenge.
"The Russian Federation is simply hit on the cheek and spit into an obediently open mouth," one Russian blogger wrote on Telegram.
"There are no such public responses for the results of activities, because the Russian Federation is run by traitors and degenerates. Degenerates and traitors."
Another Russian war blogger wrote on Telegram that "150 million people are eager to know if the time has come for the stubborn Ukrainian boss to understand what will be the retaliatory target" after the destruction of the bridge.
"If, after today's terrorist attack on the Crimean bridge, organized by Ukrainian terrorists personally by the President of Russia, no measures and decisive responses are taken, then this will be taken as weakness of the President himself," another Russian blogger wrote on Telegram.
"The Crimean bridge is a symbol of the Putin era. The attempt on the Crimean bridge is an attempt on Putin himself. In response to this terrorist attack, not a single bridge should remain in Ukraine."
Russia's Transport Ministry told the Moscow-controlled news agency TASS that passenger and freight traffic has since resumed across the bridge to Crimea.
"Currently, the railway traffic of long-distance passenger and freight trains across the Crimean Bridge proceeds under the statutory schedule," the statement from Russia's Transport Ministry reads.
Russian officials said that the blast had killed three people and caused two lanes to collapse but a lane remains intact.
"This is a future without occupiers. Throughout our territory, in particular in Crimea," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday.
"If the occupiers flee while they have a chance, this will be the best option for them. If they are forced to stay, any occupier can find a way to surrender to Ukrainian captivity."