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Twenty Russian missiles rain down on Ukraine as Putin blames West

Ukraine: Buildings damaged in Kherson after shelling

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As President Vladimir Putin blamed an encroaching West for his “special military operation” in Ukraine, at least six civilians were killed by Russia missile strikes. Roughly 20 missiles were fired into the southern port city of Kherson, Ukraine, during Putin’s speech, several of which struck a bus stop while people waited for public transport, devastating the area and injuring at least 15 people. Images of the aftermath showed bodies strewn across the ground and debris scattered across the destroyed street.

Russia used multiple-launch rocket systems to hit “residential areas, critical infrastructure facilities, a kindergarten, a hospital, private garages and cars” in Kherson, according to Ukraine’s southern task force, who released a statement on Facebook.

Several private homes were severely damaged, they added, while multiple apartments in multi-storey buildings were on fire as a result of a direct hit.

It is the latest round of Russian strikes that have killed Ukrainian civilians in what Putin has claimed is a targeted assault on critical infrastructure.

Ukrainian officials said at least 20 missiles had been fired at the city and in the nearby areas during Putin’s speech alone.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted photos of what appeared to be corpses in Kherson covered with sheets following the strikes.

On Telegram, he wrote: “The Russian army is heavily shelling Kherson. Again mercilessly killing the civilian population.

“The world has no right to forget for a single moment that Russian cruelty and aggression know no bounds.”

The southern task force added that “civilians … died in their own homes and workplaces” as a result of the Tuesday morning strikes.

They said: “A local market and a public transport stop were shelled. Just in the middle of the street, civilians of Kherson were injured and died in their own homes and workplaces.”

As the strikes were devastating the Kherson region, Putin accused Western countries of igniting and sustaining the war in Ukraine.

He dismissed any blame for Moscow almost a year after the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbour that has killed tens of thousands of people.

In his long-delayed state-of-the-nation address, Putin cast Russia — and Ukraine — as victims of Western double-dealing and said Russia, not Ukraine, was the one fighting for its very existence.

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“We aren’t fighting the Ukrainian people,” he said in a speech days before the war’s first anniversary on Friday.

Ukraine “has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectively occupied the country”.

The speech reiterated a litany of grievances that the Russian leader has frequently offered as justification for the widely condemned war and ignored international demands to pull back from occupied areas in Ukraine.

“It’s [the West] who have started the war. And we are using force to end it,” Putin said before an audience of lawmakers, state officials and soldiers who have fought in Ukraine.

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