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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

At least 23 killed in Russian strike on central Ukrainian city

Firefighters work to extinguish fire at a building damaged by shelling, in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, Thursday.

By Maria Varenikova

Russian rockets hit an office building in a city in central Ukraine on Thursday morning, killing at least 23 people and setting off a frantic search for dozens more, officials said, in the latest strike on a target that did not appear to have a direct military objective.

Three children were among those killed in the attack on the provincial capital, which occurred around 10:30 a.m., President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said. The attack involved Kalibr cruise missiles launched from a submarine in the Black Sea, according to his office. Vinnytsia is roughly 200 miles from the coast.

Sixty-four people, including two children, were also hospitalized after three rockets hit the center of Vinnytsia, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service said Thursday night. It said a search effort was underway for 42 people “with whom there is no contact.”

Officially, Russia has taken a pause in its drive to capture Ukrainian territory in order to regroup. But a spate of recent attacks against nonmilitary targets underscores one of Russia’s most brutal psychological weapons in the war in Ukraine: the terrorizing of civilians.

“Every day, Russia destroys the civilian population, kills Ukrainian children, directs rockets at civilian objects,” Zelenskyy said. “What is this, if not an open act of terrorism?”

Videos released by the Ukrainian National Police showed smoke pouring out of a multistory building and fire crews dousing water on the smoldering husks of upturned vehicles.

“Currently, we are extinguishing 750 square meters of fire in the Officers’ Club,” Viktor Vitovetsky, an emergency service official, said at a briefing Thursday. “The missile strikes damaged about 55 buildings and 40 cars.”

More than 69 emergency crew workers were helping to clear the rubble and search for survivors.

The Russian Defense Ministry has not commented on the strike. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, denounced the Kremlin for the attack, which occurred as the Dutch government hosted a conference at The Hague intended to ensure that Russia is held accountable for violations of human rights in Ukraine.

Even as the international community was gathering, Kuleba said, “Russia is committing another war crime.”

After the explosions, frightened residents stood on the sidewalks, watching a coiling plume of black smoke rise from the city center. People were scared, although the strikes “are familiar to us” now, Iryna Mykhailova, a nanny living in Vinnytsia, said by telephone.

Another witness, Raisa Ludanova, said, “I had no time to get scared because it was a sudden loud noise, and a window in my room was blown off.”

Vinnytsia, which had a prewar population of more than 370,000, lies west of the Dnipro River, hundreds of miles from the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, the focus of Moscow’s military campaign in recent weeks. The area has not seen significant attacks since early March, days after Russia’s invasion, when Russian cruise missiles struck an airport in the city.

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