Vinnytsia(Ukraine)- Russian missiles struck a city in central Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least 23 people and wounding more than 100 others far from the front lines. Ukraine’s president accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians in locations without military value.
Officials said Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a Russian ship in the Black Sea damaged a medical clinic, offices, stores and residential buildings in Vinnytsia, a city 268 kilometres (167 miles) southwest of the capital, Kyiv. Vinnytsia region Gov. Serhiy Borzov said Ukrainian air defences downed two of the four incoming Russian missiles.
National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said only six bodies had been identified, while 39 people were still missing. Three children younger than ten were among the dead. Of the 66 people hospitalized, five remained in critical condition while 34 sustained severe injuries, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said.
“It was a building of a medical organization. When the first rocket hit it, glass fell from my windows,” said Vinnytsia resident Svitlana Kubas, 74. “And when the second wave came, it was so deafening that my head was still buzzing. It tore out the very outermost door, tore it right through the holes.”
Borzov said 36 apartment buildings were damaged, and residents have been evacuated. Along with hitting buildings, the missiles ignited a fire that spread to 50 cars in a parking lot, officials said.
“These are high-precision missiles. … They knew where they were hitting,” Borzov told the AP.
Russia denied targeting civilians.
“Russia only strikes at military targets in Ukraine. The strike on Vinnytsia targeted an officers’ residence, where preparations by Ukrainian armed forces were underway,” Evgeny Varganov, a member of Russia’s permanent U.N. mission, said in an address to the chamber.
Among the buildings damaged in the strike was the House of Officers, a Soviet-era concert hall.
Margarita Simonyan, head of the state-controlled Russian television network RT, said on her messaging app channel that military officials told her a building in Vinnytsia was targeted because it housed Ukrainian “Nazis.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his call for Russia to be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. The strike happened as government officials from about 40 countries met in The Hague, Netherlands, to discuss coordinating investigations and prosecutions of potential war crimes committed in Ukraine.