On Anniversary of Illegal Annexation, Russia Strikes Ukrainian Region It Claims as Its Own

Russia launched a missile attack on a region in southern Ukraine that it claims as its own on Saturday, wounding at least five people, a day after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine delivered dueling speeches that underlined their determination to keep fighting.

Russia illegally annexed four regions — Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — exactly a year ago Saturday. Battles for control have continued to rage in all four areas.

In an address timed to the anniversary, Mr. Putin insisted that Ukrainians in the occupied regions chose to be a part of Russia, a position rejected by the government in Kyiv and Ukraine’s allies. Moscow’s forces were fighting “for our sovereignty, spiritual values and unity,” he said, standing by a false justification of Russia’s invasion that he has previously presented as a struggle against the West.

Mr. Zelensky, meanwhile, called for continued national resistance nearly 600 days into the war. “There hasn’t been a day throughout this long period when Ukraine felt any hopelessness and when Russia had even a glimmer of real hope to break us,” he said in a speech.

The note of defiance came as Kyiv is pursuing a counteroffensive to drive Russian forces from land Moscow now considers to be part of its territory — claims widely rejected by Western countries. But four months in, Ukrainian forces have not achieved a decisive breach in Russian defenses and the front lines have remained largely unchanged, suggesting there will be no swift military conclusion to a war that has cost thousands of lives on both sides.

As fierce battles rage for every yard of land, Russian forces have carried out relentless strikes on civilian areas and other targets in Ukraine. Two separate missile strikes injured five people on Saturday morning in the Zaporizhzhia region, the Ukrainian regional military administration said. Houses and an infrastructure facility sustained damage, it added. Even though Russia claimed it annexed the region, Moscow’s forces do not control all of Zaporizhzhia.

Russian forces also launched 40 exploding drones overnight, according to Ukraine’s air force, which said that 30 of the slow-moving drones were shot down. A drone hit an infrastructure plant in the Vinnytsia region of central Ukraine and sparked a large fire.

The authorities said that drones also targeted Mykolaiv and Odesa in southern Ukraine, which repeatedly come under attack by Russian forces. On a visit there on Saturday, the European Union’s top diplomat decried how the “historic city” has recently made headlines not for its culture but rather for being a “frequent target of Putin’s war.”

“A year has passed since Russia’s illegal annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia & Kherson,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Ukraine has every right to defend itself against the Russian aggression and regain full control of its territory. The EU stands with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Attacks also wounded seven civilians in the Donetsk region and three others in Kherson, the local authorities said on Saturday in posts on Facebook.

Since Russia’s illegal annexation of the four regions, Moscow has aimed to cement control in the areas that its forces hold. Earlier this month, Russian occupation officials held municipal and regional elections in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Kyiv and its international allies condemned the polls as fraudulent attempts to tighten Moscow’s grip, and Britain on Friday imposed new sanctions on Russian officials in response to the “sham elections.”

Russia organized widely condemned referendums last September as a prelude to the annexations. That followed a playbook Moscow established in 2014, when it seized the Crimean peninsula and partially occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Zelensky says Ukraine is intent on regaining control over the peninsula. Kyiv in recent months has intensified its strikes on Russian military targets in Crimea, using drones and missiles, including ones supplied by the country’s allies in NATO.

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