Russian missiles kill at least 23 in central Ukrainian town

VINNYTSIA, Ukraine — Russian missiles struck a town in central Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 100 others far from the front lines, Ukrainian authorities said. Ukraine’s president has accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians in places of no military value.

Officials said Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea damaged a medical clinic, offices, shops and residential buildings in Vinnytsia, a town 268 kilometers southwest from the capital, Kyiv. Vinnytsia region governor Serhiy Borzov said Ukrainian air defenses shot down two of the four incoming Russian missiles.

National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said only six bodies had been identified so far, while 39 people were still missing. Three children under the age of 10 are among the dead. Of the 66 people hospitalized, five remained in critical condition while 34 were seriously injured, the Ukrainian state emergency service said.

“It was a medical organization building. When the first rocket hit it, glass fell from my windows,” said Svitlana Kubas, 74, a resident of Vinnytsia. “And when the second wave came, it was so deafening my head is still buzzing.”

Governor Borzov said 36 apartment buildings were damaged and residents were evacuated. In addition to hitting buildings, the missiles ignited a fire that spread to 50 cars in a parking lot, officials said.

“These are very high precision missiles. (…) They knew where they were hitting,” Mr. Borzov told the Associated Press.

Russia has denied targeting civilians.

“Russia only hits military targets in Ukraine. The strike on Vinnytsia targeted an officers’ residence, where the preparations of the Ukrainian armed forces were underway,” Evgeny Varganov, a member of Russia’s permanent mission to the UN, said in a speech to the chamber.

Among the buildings damaged in the strike was the Officers’ Room, a Soviet-era concert hall.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his call for Russia to be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. The strike came as government officials from around 40 countries were meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, to discuss coordinating investigations and prosecutions of potential war crimes committed in Ukraine.

“No other country in the world poses such a terrorist threat as Russia,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. No other country in the world allows itself every day to use cruise missiles and artillery rockets to destroy cities and ordinary human life.”

President Zelensky said among those killed was a 4-year-old girl named Liza, whose mother was seriously injured. A video of the little girl, twirling in a dress in a field of lavender, has been widely shared on social media.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken of a “barbaric and heinous Russian attack on civilians in Vinnytsia.” “Our support for the people of Ukraine remains unwavering – and we will continue to provide them with the assistance they need, including military equipment, as they fight back,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

Vinnytsia is one of the largest cities in Ukraine, with a population of 370,000. Thousands of people from eastern Ukraine, where Russia has concentrated its offensive, have fled there since the start of the war.

Before the missiles hit Vinnytsia, the president’s office reported the deaths of five civilians and the wounding of eight others in Russian attacks over the past day.

One person was injured when a missile damaged several buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv early Thursday, Ukrainian authorities said. A missile attack on Wednesday killed at least five people in the city.

Russian forces also continued their artillery and missile attacks in eastern Ukraine, mainly in Donetsk province after overtaking neighboring Lugansk. The town of Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian resistance stronghold in Lugansk, fell to Russian forces earlier this month.

Lugansk and Donetsk together form Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking region of steelworks, mines, and other industries.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko urged residents to evacuate as “quickly as possible”.

“We urge civilians to leave the area, where electricity, water and gas are lacking after Russian bombings,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. The fighting is intensifying and people should stop risking their lives and leave the area.”

The British Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that despite continued shelling in the Donbass region, Russian forces had not made any major territorial gains in recent days.

“The aging vehicles, weapons and tactics of the Soviet era used by Russian forces do not lend themselves to rapid recovery or momentum unless used in overwhelming numbers ― which Russia is currently unable to put to good use”, explained the British ministry.

Russian forces and the Ukrainian military are seeking to replenish their depleted stocks of unmanned aerial vehicles to locate enemy positions and guide artillery strikes.

Both sides are looking to procure advanced jamming-resistant drones that could provide a decisive advantage. Ukrainian officials say the demand for such technology is “tremendous” with crowdfunding efforts underway to raise the funds needed for purchases.


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