Russian rockets destroyed a five-story apartment block in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia early Thursday, killing at least three people and leaving others trapped beneath the rubble, according to the regional governor and emergency services. The Washington Post reports "huge fires" were burning in the area following "at least seven" missile strikes. Reuters shared images showing "a gaping, rubble-strewn hole" where the apartment block previously stood. Oleksandr Starukh, Zaporizhzhia's regional governor, said a 3-year-old child was among a dozen people injured in the blasts, which left at least five others trapped.
The attack came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to annex the Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south and Luhansk and Donetsk in the east in violation of international laws. He also declared Russia's takeover of the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, per France 24. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of "nuclear blackmail" over the plant seizure, per the Guardian. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is in Kyiv to discuss a potential protection zone around the plant. He's also expected to travel to Moscow.
Ukraine remains in control of Zaporizhzhia city and is only gaining ground, per the Guardian. Russian troops have been forced to retreat under pressure on both the eastern and southern fronts as Ukraine's military has recaptured dozens of towns. Zelensky has promised more gains to come. "Ukrainians know what they fight for. And more and more Russian citizens realize that they must die simply because one single man does not want to stop the war," he said, per CNBC. Referencing the strike on the apartment block, Andriy Yermak, a rep for Zelensky, noted "Russian terrorists are able to fight only with civilians." (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)