IZYUM, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said towns and villages recaptured from Russian forces had been devastated, while a major city stepped up efforts on Thursday to repair damage to its water system from missile attacks.
Kryvyi Rih, the largest city in central Ukraine with an estimated pre-war population of 650,000, was hit by eight cruise missiles on Wednesday, officials said.
The strikes hit the Karachunov reservoir dam, Zelensky said in a video address released early on Thursday. The water system had “no military value” and hundreds of thousands of civilians depend on it daily, he said.
Oleksandr Vilkul, the head of the Krivyi Rih military administration, said in a post on Telegram that 112 homes were flooded but that works to repair the dam on the Inhulets river were underway and that “flooding was receding”.
Russian forces suffered a stunning reversal this month after Ukrainian troops made a rapid armored thrust in the Kharkiv region in its northeast, forcing a rushed Russian withdrawal.
Zelensky on Wednesday made a surprise visit to Izyum – until four days ago Russia’s main bastion in the Kharkiv region – where he watched as the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag was raised in front of the charred city council building.
“Our law enforcers are already receiving evidence of murder, torture, and abductions of people by the occupiers,” he said, adding there was “evidence of genocide against Ukrainians”.
“They only destroyed, only seized, only deported. They left devastated villages, and in some of them there is not a single surviving house,” Zelensky added in the video address.
Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians, and Reuters could not immediately verify battlefield reports.
Zelensky’s video address was released after his return to Kyiv from the Kharkiv region and following word from his office that his car had collided with a private vehicle in the capital.
“The president was examined by a doctor, no serious injuries were found,” presidential spokesman Serhiy Nykyforov said in a Facebook post early on Thursday.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Thursday that Russian forces had launched attacks on several settlements on the Kharkiv frontline in the past 24 hours.
However, Ukraine’s forces continue to consolidate their control of the newly liberated areas in the region, Britain’s defense ministry said in an update on Thursday.