Russia defends submarine missile attack that killed 23 civilians


Moscow claims Kalibr missiles hit Ukraine’s air force assembly. Ukraine says 23 people, including three children, have been killed.

Russia has tried to justify a missile strike that killed 23 civilians — including three children — on the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, alleging the submarine-launched missiles targeted a meeting of Ukrainian air force commanders and representatives of Western arms suppliers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Thursday’s afternoon attack on Vinnytsia, a city far from the front lines of the conflict, “an overt act of terrorism” that killed civilians going about their daily business.

The attack was the latest in a series of Russian attacks in recent weeks that used long-range missiles on crowded buildings in towns far from the front, killing dozens of people.

Zelensky said the death toll in Vinnytsia is likely to rise. Dozens are still missing and many victims of the missiles have been hospitalized in critical condition.

Russia’s defense ministry said on Friday that its naval Kalibr missiles, launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea, targeted the Ukrainian military.

“At the time of the strike, a meeting of the Ukrainian Air Force Command with representatives of foreign arms suppliers was held,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

“As a result of the strike, participants in the meeting have been destroyed,” the ministry said, claiming the meeting focused on the delivery of fighter jets and weapons and repair of Ukrainian aircraft.

Ukrainian authorities have maintained that the site had nothing to do with the military.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “appalled” by the attack on civilians in the city, while the EU labeled the Russian missile attack an “atrocity”. Both have called for responsibility.

‘We would lose her’

Among the dead was Liza, a four-year-old girl with Down syndrome, found in the rubble next to her stroller. Images of her pushing the same stroller, which her mother posted to a blog less than two hours before the attack, quickly went viral.

Liza’s critically injured mother, Iryna Dmitrieva, was held in an information blackout at a hospital for fear she would die if she found out about her daughter, doctors said.

Undated photo of Liza Dmitrieva, a 4-year-old who died in a Russian missile attack, in Vinnytsia, Ukraine [LogoClub Children’s Center/Handout via Reuters]

“She suffers from burns, chest injuries, abdominal injuries, liver and spleen injuries. We stitched the organs together, the bones were crushed as if they were going through a meat grinder,” Oleksandr Fomin, chief physician at Vinnytsia Emergency Hospital, said Friday.

If she was told about her daughter’s death, “we would lose her,” the doctor said.

Vinnytsia governor Serhiy Borzov said only 10 people have been identified among the dead so far.

“Russia has deliberately hit civilians and anyone responsible for the crime must be held accountable,” he said, denouncing the “barbaric behavior” of Russian troops.

After an initial lull following the attacks on Vinnytsia, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that its troops had attacked an “officer club” in the city — in Soviet times, the city’s affected concert hall was considered an officers club.

Ukraine’s interior ministry said on Friday that Russian forces carried out more than 17,000 attacks on civilian targets during the war, killing thousands of fighters and civilians and displacing millions from their homes.

The invasion has also spurred the global economy by raising prices and restricting exports of key Ukrainian and Russian commodities such as grain, fuel and fertilizer.

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