President Zelenskyy denounced the attack on the store and cafe in the village of Hroza as a “demonstrably brutal Russian crime” and “a completely deliberate act of terrorism.”
At least 50 civilians were killed Thursday in a Russian rocket strike on a village store in eastern Ukraine, one of the deadliest attacks in recent months that came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended a summit of around 50 European leaders in Spain to drum up support from the country's allies.
Zelenskyy denounced the attack on the store and cafe in the village of Hroza as a “demonstrably brutal Russian crime” and “a completely deliberate act of terrorism.”
He urged Western allies to help strengthen Ukraine's air defences, saying that “Russian terror must be stopped.”
“Russia needs this and similar terrorist attacks for only one thing: to make its genocidal aggression the new norm for the whole world,” he said. “Now we are talking with European leaders, in particular, about strengthening our air defence, strengthening our soldiers, giving our country protection from terror. And we will respond to the terrorists.”
Presidential chief of staff Andrii Yermak and Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said a 6-year-old boy was among the dead, adding that six other people were wounded.
Strengthening air defence
The attack came as Zelenskyy was in Granada in southern Spain to attend a summit of the European Political Community, which was formed in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“The key for us, especially before winter, is to strengthen air defence, and there is already a basis for new agreements with partners,” he said in a statement posted on his Telegram channel.
Last winter, Russia targeted Ukraine's energy system and other vital infrastructure in a steady barrage of missile and drone attacks, triggering continuous power outages across the country. Ukraine's power system has shown a high degree of resilience and flexibility, helping alleviate the damage, but there have been concerns that Russia will again ramp up its strikes on power facilities as winter draws nearer.
Zelenskyy noted the Granada summit will also focus on “joint work for global food security and protection of freedom of navigation” in the Black Sea, where the Russian military has targeted Ukrainian ports after Moscow's withdrawal from a UN-sponsored grain deal designed to ensure safe grain exports from the invaded country’s ports.
The UK Foreign Office cited intelligence suggesting that Russia may lay sea mines in the approach to Ukrainian ports to target civilian shipping and blame it on Ukraine.
“Russia almost certainly wants to avoid openly sinking civilian ships, instead falsely laying blame on Ukraine for any attacks against civilian vessels in the Black Sea,” it said, adding that the UK was working with Ukraine to help improve the safety of shipping.
Thursday drone attacks
Earlier Thursday, Russia targeted Ukraine's southern regions with drones. Ukraine’s air force said that the country’s air defences intercepted 24 out of 29 Iranian-made drones that Russia launched at the Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kirovohrad regions.
Andriy Raykovych, head of the Kirovohrad regional administration, said that an infrastructure facility in the region was struck and emergency services were deployed to extinguish a fire. He said there were no casualties.
In other Russian attacks on Ukraine in the past day, two civilians were killed in shelling of the southern city of Kherson and another one died after a Russian strike on the city of Krasnohorivka in the eastern Donetsk region. At least eight people were wounded by Russian shelling, according to Ukraine's presidential office.
A Russian strike on a hospital in the city of Beryslav in the Kherson region ravaged the building and wounded two medical workers, according to the regional administration chief, Oleksandr Prokudin.
Ukraine, in turn, has struck back at Russia with regular drone attacks across the border.
Roman Starovoit, the governor of Russia's Kursk region that borders Ukraine, said that Ukrainian drones attacked infrastructure facilities in several areas, resulting in power cuts.
Starovoit also said that Ukrainian forces fired artillery at the border town of Rylsk, wounding a local resident and damaging several houses.