20/12/2022

Zaporizhzhia. Cossack’s land of free under attack

The destruction caused by Russian missile attack on October 6, 2022. Photo: Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration

More than half of the Zaporizhzhia region is temporarily occupied by Russia, and the city is constantly suffering from the Russian shelling. Just in two weeks of October, more than 70 people were killed, and many more injured.

The city of Zaporizhzhia has a great and glorious history. Surrounded by steppes and the Dnipro river, it is the land of the Cossacks – courageous and free Ukrainian warriors of the past. In the heart of the city is Khortytsia Island, where the Zaporizhzhia Sich was once built.

The city is also known for its greatest, oldest oak alive and the Dnipro Hydroelectric Station with a massive dam. It powers all the industrial premises and residential buildings here.

Zaporizhzhia has one of the greatest steel factories in Ukraine — Zaporizhstal, steel from which is appreciated for its reliability. As well as Motor Sich, the advanced aircraft engine manufacturer. Its engines are used in planes all over the world. Motor Sich was also responsible for constructing massive engines for the Antonov-225 “Mriia” aircraft. 

An industrial city with a rich history, welcoming people, and a brave spirit in every citizen. Once a tourist attraction. Now, the stronghold for refugees. 

Since the full-scale Russian invasion, 60% of the Zaporizhzhia region has been temporarily occupied, including major cities like Melitopol and Berdiansk. Zaporizhzhia has welcomed many refugees from there, from Mariupol and even Kherson. Residents provided them with a place to rest and continue their journey to safety. 

Zaporizhzhia itself is not in safety, though. The city is constantly suffering from Russian missile and drone attacks. From Uragan, Smerch, and S-300 rocket launchers. And the frontline is only 40 kilometers away.

Timeline

February 26, the first attack on Zaporizhzhia

The Russian “liberation” came with the first missile hitting a civilian infrastructure object located in the Komunarskyi district. As a result, the fire broke out, but no civilian was injured during this attack.

While the whole country was suffering from the constant missile strikes, Zaporizhzhia was relatively quiet…for a period of time.

March 16, hitting the civilian infrastructure

Zaporizhzhia’s quiet morning was interrupted by two explosions. One of the missiles hit the civilian train station Zaporizhzhia-2, damaging railroads and connection networks. Shock waves from the explosion smashed windows of nearby residential buildings. 

Damaged train station
Photo: Denys Dieiev

One civilian was injured, but the passengers and other bystanders left with just a shock.

March 18, mass murder of civilians and rescuers

One MLRS “Smerch” missile with cluster bombs hit the factory and a quarry nearby. After rescuers came to help after the first hit, Russians shamelessly launched another cluster missile at the same location.

9 innocent people died, and 22 were injured, including the rescuers.

This attack shocked the city, and the local government announced a mourning day for those who died to the Russian aggression.

April 21, an attack on a wildlife reserve

Khortytsia Island is an important historical site as well as a natural reserve with rich wildlife. Ecocide has been a constant Russia’s strategy: missiles were launched here in April for the first, but not the last time. They hit the area near the railroad bridge that connects the West and East coasts of the Dnipro river with the island.

Funnel after a missile strike on Khortytsia Island.
Photo: Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration

On April 26, one of the missiles hit the sanatorium, injuring 8 people.

April 28, destroyed residential buildings

In the early morning, Russian jets fired two X-55 missiles and hit the residential area. 5 people were injured, including a child.

May 12, Russia strikes Khortytsia again

On that day, Russia launched another attack on Khortytsia island. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the explosion caused a fire to break out.

May 25, the first missiles hit the city center

Three massive explosions shook the city. A missile hit one of the biggest malls in Zaporizhzhia called “Aurora”, destroying its roof and damaging the interior. Not only the mall but nearby high-story buildings were damaged by the blast wave.

Damaged “Aurora” mall.
Photo: Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration

The other two missiles also targeted the civilian infrastructure, leaving one woman dead and three people injured.

Once a peaceful safe space for all residents to enjoy movies, cafés, and shops was now in ruins, left there until the end of the war.

July 13, a factory destroyed

Russia launched a missile attack, targeting an industrial facility. The destruction was devastating, many people were trapped under the debris. In total, 12 people were injured in this attack.

August, weekly missile terror 

It started on August 6, when a Russian missile hit the civilian infrastructure. No one was injured that day. However, another attack on the power grid of Stepnogirsk, a little town south of Zaporizhzhia, led to power shut down for nearby villages.

On August 12, Russia hit yet another civilian infrastructure with 5 missiles, killing one person and injuring two.

August 24, the Independence Day of Ukraine, the time for celebration, that Russia can not stand. Several rockets were launched on the city, they hit two districts and damaged six apartment buildings. 

Building, damaged in the attack on August 24, 2022.
Photo: Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration

Three days later, Russia launched another attack on Zaporizhzhia. No one was killed or injured. However, Russia attacked Kamianka, a temporarily occupied town in the Zaporizhzhia region. A shell hit the residential building, killing a 29-year-old woman with her 2-year-old and 8-year-old kids. 

The very next day, Russia fired missiles that hit two districts of Zaporizhzhia. 2 people were injured with glass shards, 5 buildings were damaged.

September 22, a place of leisure destroyed 

In the early morning, Russia’s forces targeted Oak Grove, the biggest city park. In the center of it, a hotel stands for people to spend their holidays or book it for special occasions such as weddings or graduations.

A missile hit the place. As the owner reported, over 40 people were staying there, including refugees and workers. Some of them went out before the explosion, but the missile injured 5 people and killed one senior person who worked as a hotel keeper and helped displaced persons.

September 30, the brutal attack on civilians and volunteers

On the way out of Zaporizhzhia to the temporarily occupied part of the region, there is a checkpoint made for volunteers and civilians to deliver life-support supplies or get family members out. 

On September 30, that route met high-level traffic, and the Russian army used that moment to commit a terrorist act, targeting missiles at the crowded place. 32 people were killed in that attack, including an 11-year-old girl with a 14-year-old boy. 86 were injured, a 3-year-old kid among them.

October, the month of terror

The ninth month of the full-scale war can be considered the hardest in Zaporizhzhia so far, as Russia attacked the city almost every single day, mostly with S-300 missile launchers. They provide high range, but low accuracy when used on ground targets.

Those missiles are hard to counterattack and destroy with air defense systems as they fly at low altitudes, becoming almost impossible for radars to spot and react quickly.

The S-300’s primary use is destroying aircraft, but as Russia slowly runs out of other missiles, they use anti-air rockets to terrorize civilians.

It started on October 6: Russia launched 7 missiles, directly hitting residential buildings. 20 people died in their sleep, buried under debris.

Rescuers are clearing debris after a rocket hit a residential building on October 6, 2022.
Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine

The next day, Russia launched missiles again and almost hit another residential building. They missed, but still damaged an apartment and injured 1 person.

On October 9, Russian soldiers put down S-300 missiles and used 12 cruise missiles instead. Most of them landed on another residential building, killing 12 people and injuring 87. Among them were 10 kids.

The next day, Russia repeated the attack with 7 S-300 missiles. One of them hit an apartment building, causing one of the sections to collapse entirely. Other missiles hit the energy infrastructure.

On October 11, around 6 in the morning, Russia shelled the city, hitting a children’s rehabilitation center. A number of other buildings were damaged or destroyed, such as a car dealership, a dispensary, and a school. 

For the following weeks, Russia had constantly launched attacks on the outskirts of the city, damaging and killing people in the villages near Zaporizhzhia. On October 14 and 18, invaders used the Iranian drone Shahed-136 for the first time. 

Inside of the apartment, where the windows had been knocked out by the shock wave. October 6, 2022.
Photo: Anatolii Kurtiev, аcting mayor of Zaporizhzhia

Another major attack on Zaporizhzhia was committed on the last day of October. It started at 8 a.m. with cruise missiles being shot at the city, followed by the S-300 missile launch two hours later.

Thankfully, no one was injured, but the missiles caused damage to critical infrastructure, leaving districts without power and water supply. Considering the amount of damage, the local government introduced scheduled power cuts. Residents had to adapt their lives to the new schedule to allow city services to repair the infrastructure.

November, the terror continues

In November, the intensity of attacks on the city lowered. However, Russians still continued terrorizing Zaporizhzhia, just as every other part of Ukraine, with their main focus on destroying critical infrastructure.

On November 6, around 0:30 a.m., Russia attacked Zaporizhzhia with two S-300 missiles right after the air raid alert went off. One missile caused a fire in a private enterprise and another one hit the residential quarter, killing 1 person.

In the attack on November 12, unexploded Russian shells fell in one of the residential areas of the city and endangered six apartment buildings. Residents had to be temporarily evacuated.

Three days later, Russians launched S-300 missiles on the outskirts of the city, damaging the power line. And in another three days, Zaporizhzhia was attacked by five S-300 rockets. Over 120 buildings were left without central heating, but, thankfully, specialists restored the system on the next day.

On November 23, Russia started a massive missile attack, targeting critical infrastructure all over Ukraine. Most of the rockets were shut down, but some of them managed to hit the important infrastructure objects. Ukraine went into а blackout.

Zaporizhzhia was not an exception, but the power outage lasted only for 3 hours in the city, while in some parts of the country residents were left without power for days.

Destroyed service station near Zaporizhzhia. November 25, 2022.
Photo: Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration

On November 27, Russia launched two S-300 missiles at an agricultural enterprise. Many animals were killed, but no person was injured.

Read more about Russia’s purposeful destruction of Ukrainian food supply.

On November 30, at night, the occupiers launched a missile attack in the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia. The gas distribution point was damaged by an S-300 missile, and a fire broke out. It was quickly extinguished, but residents of three streets temporarily remained without gas supply.

December

December started as stressful as the other months. Explosions can be heard on the outskirts of the city, and the targets of the shelling are still the same – critical infrastructure and residential buildings. Russia continues to terrorize Ukrainians. Children, elderly, peaceful civilians.

The fire broke out after the attack on energy infrastructure in Zaporizhzhia. December 2, 2022.
Photo: Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration

The Stronghold of the South

As of January 1, 2022, Zaporizhzhia had 710,000 residents. Almost half of them evacuated to safer areas, reported Oleksandr Starukh, the Head of Zaporizhzhia Regional Military administration in October. The number was calculated with data from mobile operators.

The other half, however, remains in the city, in their homes, despite the constant thread of new terror attacks that Russia is regularly launching on war-torn cities of Ukraine.

After the massive attacks on civilian and critical infrastructure, Zaporizhzhia is adapting to electricity shutdown schedules. As of the end of November, residents have to deal with one power outage per day that may last 3 hours or more.

Most of the city’s public transport that runs on electricity has been put down to save more energy. Water supply systems are intact, as well as heating networks. But after every Russia’s attack the situation may change.

But one thing will definitely not – the brave spirit of Zaporizhzhia residents. The Russian terror will not stop the nation of Cossack’s descendants from fighting for their freedom.

Oleksandr Dereviachenko

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