Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

Bodies in cars, on the ground after Zaporizhzhia civilian convoy strike

Kyiv says at least 25 civilians have been killed in a strike on a humanitarian convoy outside the city of Zaporizhzhia. ©AFP

Zaporizhzhia (Ukraine) (AFP) - The body of a man in a chequered jumper inside a car with blown-out windows, his tattooed hand still clutching the steering wheel.

A woman's purple manicure and golden rings visible as her body lies in a pool of blood on the ground.

These are just some of at least 30 civilians killed in a strike on a humanitarian convoy outside Ukraine's southern city of Zaporizhzhia on Friday.

The deadly attack came in the morning, when hundreds of people were waiting in a line of vehicles to cross into the Russian-controlled part of the region. 

Obtaining permission to move between Kyiv- and Moscow-held territory can be a lengthy process, with families divided by a moving frontline in a conflict that has ravaged Ukraine for seven months.

The strike came just hours before President Vladimir Putin declared four Ukrainian regions -- including Zaporizhzhia -- to be Russian in a lavish annexation ceremony at the Kremlin.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw bodies lying between damaged cars, with suitcases and handbags scattered nearby. 

One man, 56-year-old Viktor, said his life was saved by the fact that he left the queue to find coffee. 

"The waitress gave it to me, then there was a bang.She got scared and ran out.A few minutes later, another one.Now she is on the floor," he said.

"I managed to hide.She did not."

A few metres behind him, the body of a young woman in a pink jacket was lying on the ground, her leg contorted. 

Another woman's body was lying face down. 

Both were killed between two rows of cars, the front of a convoy hoping to return to parts of southern Ukraine under Russian control.

Drivers and passengers were waiting outside a logistics centre for permission to cross, which can take days or even weeks, according to Viktor.

Another woman who survived and asked to use the pseudonym Katya said some 300 cars were waiting around 08:00 am when the rockets hit. 

Ukrainian security forces said three S-300 missiles hit the transit centre and a small forest nearby.

Police inspected a large crater several metres deep near the line of cars. 

'Ukrainian, not Russian'

AFP saw more than a dozen damaged cars and vans on Friday afternoon, all with their windows blown out.

The bodies of their former passengers, covered with a white sheet, were still inside.

A soldier opened a minivan door, first discovering a small dog that had been killed, before pulling out the body of a man by his black jacket. 

The remains of half a dozen victims in black body bags were placed in an ambulance nearby.

President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia "bloodthirsty scum" after the attack.

"Only complete terrorists could do this," the Ukrainian leader said. 

His aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko said it was an "inhumane" attack. 

Moscow-backed forces claimed Kyiv was behind the attack. 

Inside the makeshift logistics centre near the line of cars, signs bore the names of cities under Russian occupation -- Melitopol, Berdyansk and others that people in their cars had been hoping to reach.

Moscow has held so-called "referendums" in the occupied areas that Kyiv and the West have decried as a sham. 

Katya, who was on her way to Moscow-held territory, said "the referendum means nothing".

"I am Ukrainian, not Russian," said the mother of two children, who are being looked after in Dnipro, a central city under Ukrainian control.

She said she was returning to the south to be able to earn a living.

"I have no work elsewhere," she said.

Related Stories
Dozens feared dead after Russian strike on civilian convoy near Zaporizhzhia
Attack comes as Vladimir Putin prepares to publicly sign annexation orders for four Ukrainian regions
From analysis to the latest developments in health, read the most diverse news in one place.
Ukraine: Russian strike kills 25 in aid convoy
KYIV: An attack on a frontline civilian convoy killed at least 25 people in southern Ukraine on Friday, just hours before Moscow was due to annex four occupied Ukrainian regions.
Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine War
Ukrainian officials say a Russian missile strike on the city of Zaporozhzhia has killed at least 23 people and wounded 28
Russian attack kills 30 in civilian convoy in Ukraine: Kyiv
Targeted convoy of civilians planned to travel into occupied territory to pick up relatives, Ukrainian official says.
Attack kills 25 in Ukraine ahead of Kremlin annexation
Moscow (AFP) - An attack on a frontline civilian convoy killed at least 25 people in southern Ukraine on Friday, just hours before Moscow was due to annex four occupied Ukrainian regions.
One place to find news on any topic, from hundreds of sites.
Russia withdraws its troops from a key city encircled by Ukrainian forces
Russia pulled troops out Saturday from the eastern Ukrainian city of Lyman, which it had been using as a front-line hub. It was the latest victory for the Ukrainian counteroffensive.