At least 17 people were killed and nearly three dozen more injured in a Russian assault Wednesday on the central market in the eastern Ukraine city of Kostiantynivka, Ukrainian officials reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has condemned the attack, saying a market, shops and a pharmacy were hit in the industrial city close to the current front lines of the battlefield, about 30 kilometers from the city of Bakhmut, where there has been heavy combat for months.
"Those who know this place are well aware that it is a civilian area. There aren't any military units nearby," Zelenskyy said during a news conference in Kyiv.
"This Russian evil must be defeated as soon as possible," he added.
Video footage on the Telegram messaging app showed a loud explosion ripping through shopping alleys, with people falling to the ground and some running for cover. Local media described it as a missile attack.
"There was no military target here. This is a peaceful neighborhood in the city center," Stefan Slovak, who lives in Kostiantynivka, in a trembling voice, told The Associated Press.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klimenko posted pictures showing rescue workers sifting through the rubble and carrying out bodies in black sacks.
Elsewhere, Ukrainian officials said a Russia drone attack on a port area in the Odesa region killed one person.
Oleh Kiper, the regional governor, said on Telegram the Russian attack lasted for three hours and damaged agricultural infrastructure at the Danube River port of Izmail.
Russia also targeted Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, with a missile attack early Wednesday. But Serhiy Popko, head of the city’s military administration, said on Telegram that air defenses shot down all the missiles aimed at Kyiv and that there were no reports of damage or casualties.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its air defenses destroyed a Ukrainian drone late Tuesday over the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine. The regional governor in Bryansk said there were no casualties reported.
Ukraine’s parliament on Wednesday approved the appointment of Rustem Umerov as the country’s new defense minister. Umerov is a Crimean Tatar and a former lawmaker who was in charge of Ukraine’s main privatization fund.
Zelenskyy announced last weekend he was replacing Oleksii Reznikov, saying “the ministry needs new approaches and other formats of interaction with both the military and society as a whole.”
Reznikov played a pivotal role in securing billions of dollars’ worth of Western military aid to help the war effort. However, during his tenure, the Defense Ministry has been tarnished by graft allegations, which Reznikov has described as smears.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.