Ukrainian MP Accuses Russia of 'War Crime' for Missile Strike on Apartments

A Ukrainian MP said that a missile strike on an apartment block in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia was a "war crime" carried out by Russian forces who intended to step up their attacks on civilian targets.

The strikes came hours after the Kremlin said it was formally seizing Europe's biggest nuclear power plant nearby. Ukrainian emergency services said three bodies have been pulled from the rubble of the five-story apartment block and a three-year-old girl was among those saved.

Local officials said seven rockets hit residential buildings in strikes before dawn on Thursday and again several hours later, and that people are still trapped under the rubble.

Zaporizhzhia strike Ukraine
Above, Ukrainian firefighters put out a fire in Zaporizhzhia on October 6, 2022, after a reported Russian missile strike on an apartment block. Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko told Newsweek the strike was a "war crime." MARINA MOISEYENKO/Getty Images

"It's one of those days today when you wake up hoping that everything will be good, but the first news that you see is actually the devastation that Russian missiles have caused in the middle of the night," Lesia Vasylenko told Newsweek.

"That's a war crime I would say, under international law," she said. "They are targeting civilians, and every time they target civilians is when they cannot get any advancement on the military front. So they shift to the strategy where they are trying to break the morale of the people."

Zaporizhzhia is the capital city of the region with the same name that Vladimir Putin declared Moscow had annexed, along with three other Ukrainian regions—Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Kherson in the south. Russian forces do not entirely control any of those regions as Ukrainian troops continue to make gains in a counteroffensive that has left Putin reeling.

Russia has not addressed the latest missile strikes. Newsweek reached out to the Russian foreign ministry for comment.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it targeted civilians, despite evidence from international organizations to the contrary. Faced with a faltering invasion, there are now growing concerns that Russia could focus on non-military targets as the war enters the winter months.

Vasylenko, who is also a member of the Ukrainian permanent delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said Moscow was mistaken if it thought missile strikes such as those on Thursday would increase pressure on the government in Kyiv to surrender.

"The thing is with Ukrainians, the more you hit civilian targets, the more you destroy schools, residential blocks, hospitals, the more resilient the people become, the more hateful we become of these attacks," she said, "and the more determined we become, to actually put an end to it."

Ukraine MP Lesia Vasylenko
Above, Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, England, on October 2, 2022. She told Newsweek a missile strike on an apartment building in Zaporizhzhia on October 6, 2022, was a Russian "war crime." PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Russia has taken over operations of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, located in Russian-occupied territory along the Dnipro River about 75 miles from the regional capital. Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will visit Moscow to discuss the situation at the plant, as both Kyiv and Moscow accuse each other of shelling there amid fears hostilities risk a nuclear disaster.

"I don't think that the Russians themselves will be blowing up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant but then again, you never know," said Vasylenko, adding that the site, along with other four nuclear plants in Ukraine, poses "an additional risk of a nuclear disaster...without even Russia having to deploy nuclear weapons."

"What Russia can do is start stationing military units there, start using nuclear power plant facilities as weapons storage and ammunition storage facilities," she said.

"All of these things increase the risk of a nuclear disaster," she added.