From a distance, the double column of cars and minivans stopped on a broad strip of pavement in a province in southern Ukraine appears frozen in time. The vehicles contain the belongings of people on a long journey: suitcases, full plastic bags and water bottles.
But all around are signs of the violence of the strike that hit a convoy of people fleeing fighting in Zaporizhzhia Province early on Friday. A crater lies a few yards to the right of the convoy, its edges blackened. The vehicles are pockmarked by shrapnel, most of their tires deflated and their windows blown out.
In all, 30 people died and 88 people were wounded in a Russian missile attack, according to the region’s police chief, Ihor Klymenko. Pictures from the scene showed security personnel removing bodies that had been placed in black plastic sacks, while others still lay on the ground.
An 11-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy died and a 3-year-old girl was wounded, he said in a post on Facebook.
Natalia, who asked that her last name not be published out of concern for her safety, said she had driven her car with four passengers into the line and stepped out to stretch as the first explosion rang out. “I don’t know how many explosions there were,” she said in an interview. “I lay on the ground to wait it out.”
The second blast shattered the windows of her car and about a dozen more followed. “When it was over, I ran,” she said, passing a macabre scene of dead and injured.
“People were lying on the ground, near their cars or a little away, depending on how far they got, and they were dead.”
She was grazed by shrapnel, but she said that two of her passengers, a man and a woman, died, and two others were wounded. Speaking of Russian forces, she said: “I don’t understand their logic, if it exists at all.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky noted the timing of the attack, which came hours before President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia announced in Moscow, to great domestic fanfare, that Russia would take control of four Ukrainian regions including Zaporizhzhia. The annexation was denounced by Ukraine and the West as illegal.
“Another farce took place in Moscow today,” Mr. Zelensky said in an overnight address on Friday. “Something was celebrated there. They were chanting something there. They sang in the square. They were talking about Zaporizhzhia, when they themselves arranged such a thing in Zaporizhzhia.”
The strike is the latest in a litany of large-scale attacks on civilian targets since Russia invaded in February. Those include an attack at a railway station in Kramatorsk that killed 50 in eastern Ukraine in April; a missile strike on a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk in June that killed at least 16; and an attack at a shopping mall in the city of Vinnytsia in July that killed 20. Russia has often denied responsibility or blamed Ukraine for civilian deaths.
Russia has appeared to step up its strikes on eastern and southern targets in recent days. Four civilians died in Donetsk province on Friday, the head of the regional military association, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on the Telegram social messaging app. And a mother and a three-month-old baby were wounded in the port city of Mykolaiv overnight when a missile hit a house, according to the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Sienkevych.
Experts questioned the military value of the attacks as Ukraine made territorial gains in the northeast of the country in September and inroads in the east.
A British military intelligence report said on Saturday that Russia may be using up scarce supplies of the type of long-range air defense missile used in the Zaporizhzhia attack.
“Russia’s stock of such missiles is highly likely limited and is a high-value resource designed to shoot down modern aircraft and incoming missiles, rather than for use against ground targets,” the report said.
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