A Russian strike against the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia killed at least 25 people and injured 28 others, officials say.
Oleksandr Starukh, the regional governor of Zaporizhzhia, announced the grim news in a statement on Friday. He stated that Russian troops targeted a humanitarian convoy heading to a Russian-occupied area.
Starukh posted pictures of bodies lying on the ground and destroyed vehicles in the wake of the attack, which was not immediately acknowledged by Russia.
The governor said the people in the convoy traveled to rescue their relatives from Russian-occupied territory. Moscow plans to officially annex four regions of Ukraine on Friday after holding a controversial referendum vote in the disputed areas.
A local resident looks at a crater after a missile strike in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region on September 29, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
The "sham referenda", which was conducted by Russian proxies earlier this month, allegedly asked Ukrainians in disputed territory if they would like to become part of Russia. The votes were held in the Luhansk and Kherson regions, in addition to the partially Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
After five days of voting, Russian-appointed officials in Ukraine claimed that they garnered 98 percent of civilian support in Luhansk and 99 percent in Donetsk, in addition to 93 percent in Zaporizhzhia and 87 percent in Kherson.
Head of the Zaporizhzhia RMA Oleksandr Starukh speaks with journalists after a Russian missile attack on the city, Zaporizhzhia, south-eastern Ukraine on September 22, 2022. (Dmytro Smoliyenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Moscow-installed officials from all four regions claim that the votes show support for Russia’s illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory. Russia previously held a similar referendum in Crimea and used the results to annex the peninsula in 2014.
The illegal referendums, which have been repeatedly criticized by Western leaders, are expected to escalate the Russo-Ukrainian War.
People walk past a billboard reading "Forever with Russia" in Luhansk, Luhansk People's Republic controlled by Russia-backed separatists, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. (AP Photo)
The four territories are planned to be officially annexed by Russia during a ceremony in Moscow on Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to give a speech at the Kremlin afterward.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.