Ukraine said at least 30 people including children were killed and dozens injured after a convoy of civilian cars in the Zaporizhia region was shelled in an attack Kyiv blamed on Moscow.
“Thirty dead and 88 wounded as a result of another Russian war crime in Zaporizhzhia. Among the dead are two children: an 11-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy,” Ukraine national police chief Igor Klymenko said on Facebook on Friday.
He said that a three-year-old girl was also among the injured.
“Unfortunately, we also have losses among the police. A 36-year-old employee … was killed,” Klymenko said.
He added that another 27 police officers were among the injured, and “four of them are in serious condition”.
The convoy of civilian vehicles had assembled on the edge of the city on Friday, preparing to leave the area. They were planning to visit relatives and deliver supplies in an area controlled by Russia when it was hit.
The impact blew out car windows and vehicles were punctured by shrapnel, a witness said.
Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, had earlier said that 25 had been killed and 50 were wounded in what he said was an attack by a “terrorist state”.
Oleksandr Starukh, Zaporizhia’s regional governor, posted images of burned-out vehicles and bodies lying on the road.
Police Colonel Sergey Ujryumov, head of the explosive disposal unit of the Zaporizhzhia police department, said Russian-made S-300 missiles were used in the attack.
“The people who were hit were mostly in their cars or next to them. There were other strikes, more than 10. You will be informed about them later,” he told reporters at the scene.
Ujryumov said the Russian military “had the coordinates” of the convoy. “It’s not a coincidental strike. It’s perfectly deliberate,” he said.
However, Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Russian-installed administration in the Zaporizhia region, blamed the attack on Ukrainian forces.
“23 people killed … in Ukrainian strike on convoy of cars at exit to liberated part of Zaporizhzhia region,” he wrote on Telegram.
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the city of Zaporizhzhia, in Ukraine’s partially Russian-occupied Zaporizhia region, said the area is well known as a major “transit point”.
“It is the area where people escaping from occupied areas like Kherson, Luhansk and the southern part of Zaporizhia come out from,” Abdel-Hamid said. “It is also the same route that humanitarian aid tries to enter from.”
The strikes come as Moscow prepares to annex four regions into Russia after an internationally criticised referendum.
Those regions include areas near Zaporizhzhia but not the city itself, which remains in Ukrainian hands.