The liberation of Kherson by Kyiv troops more than a month ago hasn’t brought peace of mind nor a feeling of security to residents of the southern Ukrainian city.
Moscow launched a missile strike on the city Saturday morning, killing at least eight people and injuring another 58, with 18 of the injured in serious condition, according to local officials.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Kyiv officials published graphic pictures of burning cars and people lying in blood on the streets.
“Social networks will most likely mark these photos as ‘sensitive content.’ But this is not sensitive content — it is the real life of Ukraine and Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy wrote. “These are not military facilities. This is not a war according to the rules defined. It is terror, it is killing for the sake of intimidation and pleasure.”
Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, called Saturday’s assault “another brutal attack by Russia on recently-liberated Kherson.”
“Truly horrific, especially on Christmas Eve,” Brink said in a tweet.
Kherson, which had a pre-war population of about 300,000, became a target for Russian troops after their withdrawal from the city and other settlements on the western bank of the Dnipro River to the eastern bank in November in an attempt to avoid being cut off by the artillery of advancing Ukrainian troops. Over the past weeks, Russian forces have attacked Kherson and other Kyiv-controlled territories around the city with artillery, rocket launchers and mortars on a daily basis, according to local authorities.
On Friday, Russian troops shelled the Kherson region 74 times, as a result of which five civilians were killed, 17 people were injured, Yaroslav Yanushevych, the regional governor, wrote on his social media.
Intensified daily bombardments put many civilians in front of a difficult choice — either to risk their lives staying in Kherson or to leave the city for safer Kyiv-controlled areas of the country.
Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories said earlier this week that more than 12,000 people have been evacuated from liberated territories in the Kherson region “over the past months.”
On Friday, the ministry said that local authorities urged residents of the Ostriv district of Kherson, which remains “a zone of increased danger” due to constant enemy shelling, to leave their homes as they may be left without electricity, heat and water supply.
Veronika Melkozerova contributed reporting.
This article has been updated.