Russian missile attack on Ukrainian village kills 51 during memorial service for fallen soldier

  • Ukrainian President Zelensky: This is “not a blind strike”
  • Rescue workers dug into the rubble and removed the bodies
  • Dozens killed in Russian attack on village, Kiev says
  • President Zelensky condemned “Russian terrorism”.
  • Zelenskiy seeks more air defenses at summit in Spain

HROZA, Ukraine, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Ukrainian authorities said 51 people were killed in a village in northeastern Ukraine on Thursday when a Russian missile hit a cafe and grocery store to pay tribute to a Ukrainian soldier.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the incident was a deliberate attack on civilians and was “not a blind attack”.

Large bricks, broken metal and construction materials were found at the site of the afternoon attack on the cafe and shop in the village of Hroza in the Kharkiv region.

It was the worst attack in the Kharkiv region since Russia’s invasion 19 months ago, a regional official told public broadcaster Suspil. It appeared to be one of the largest civilian death tolls of any Russian strike.

Regional police told national television that 51 people were dead, six were injured and three were missing. Some of them were mourners gathering in the hotel after the fallen soldier’s service from the village.

“There was a deliberate missile attack on a village in the Kharkiv region, an ordinary shop and a restaurant,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address while attending a summit of the European political community in Spain.

“The Russian troops could not have known where they were attacking. This was not a blind attack.”

Moscow did not immediately comment on the Hroza events. Moscow denies deliberately targeting civilians, but attacks on residential areas and energy, defense, port, grain and other facilities have killed many.

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The village was close to the city of Kubiansk, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces late last year and was close to one of the front lines of the war.

Zelenskiy said a six-year-old boy was among the dead, and regional officials said families were staying in the village in defiance of wartime orders.

Carrying the dead

Rescuers went into the dumps and dumped the bodies in a field next to a children’s playground.

Some were carried away in white body bags. Others were barely covered with carpets or other materials, arms outstretched obnoxiously.

“It’s hard to talk about, but we only found bits and pieces and remains of bodies,” regional police investigator Serhiy Bolvinov said. “We’ll use DNA labs to identify the bodies.”

A missile struck during a service marking the reburial of a soldier killed in action elsewhere in his home village.

“There were only civilians. The boy was from this village. When he died, we were under occupation. (The family) decided to bring him home and bury him again,” resident Oleksandr Mukovati said.

“And then this happened. Someone betrayed us. The attack was precise, and it all went down in the coffee shop.”

Mukowati said the dead included his mother, brother and sister-in-law.

Prosecutors told public broadcaster Saspil that the rehabilitated soldier’s son — a soldier — was killed in the attack along with the son’s wife and mother.

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Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said local officials were sitting down to eat when the missile hit.

“People from every family, every house, attended this commemoration. It’s a terrible tragedy,” Klymenko told Ukrainian television.

Klymenko cited preliminary information that he said the attack was carried out by an Iskander missile.

He said the strike was clearly targeted and Ukrainian security services had launched an investigation into it.

“The terrorists launched a deliberate attack at lunchtime to ensure the maximum number of casualties,” Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said.

“There were no military targets there. This was a heinous crime committed to terrorize Ukrainians.”

Russia has carried out frequent airstrikes since the start of its invasion. Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive in the south and east, which it says is gradually advancing.

Additional reporting by Olena Harmash and Yulia Tysa; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Andrew Heavens, Ron Popsky, David Gregorio and Rod Nickell

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