Russia has confirmed it carried out an airstrike on the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, the latest in a string of deadly attacks on civilian areas, as worries in Ukraine grow that Russia is preparing a new assault in the east.
The Russian defence ministry claimed in a military briefing on Friday that Thursday’s cruise missile attack was directed at a building where top officials from Ukraine’s air forces were meeting foreign arms suppliers.
“The attack resulted in the elimination of the participants,” the ministry said.
Ukraine has rejected Russian claims that any military target was hit, saying the attack, which took place hundreds of kilometres from the frontlines, killed at least 23 people – including three children – and struck a cultural centre used by retired veterans.
Among the horrific images from the scene posted by Ukrainian officials was one of a dead child in a buggy next to a severed foot. The child’s mother is in critical condition in hospital, Serhiy Borzov, an official in Vinnytsia, said.
Ukrainian rescuers on Friday continued search operations in the city, where 18 people were still missing, according to the president’s office. In his nightly address to the nation on Thursday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the death toll was likely to rise.
Russia has repeatedly denied it is targeting civilians in Ukraine, despite mounting evidence collected by independent journalists and human rights groups that contradict these claims.
Moscow on Friday continued to shell infrastructure across Ukraine. At least 10 missiles hit two major universities in the southern city of Mykolaiv, the regional governor, Vitali Kim, said.
Kim said four S-300 missiles hit the National University of Mykolaiv and five hit the National University of Shipbuilding in central Mykolaiv. Two floors of the National University were destroyed, Kim said, adding that it was “impossible to restore the premises before the beginning of the academic year”.
Local authorities did not immediately release an official tally of casualties. Footage posted online in the aftermath of the strikes showed heavily damaged classrooms and destroyed laboratories filled with debris and research equipment.
In eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s “operational pause largely continued”, with small-scale offensives on Thursday centred on the Ukraine-controlled Donetsk cities of Slovyansk, Siversk and Bakhmut, according to a report published by the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. The ISW also assessed that Russia “will likely launch a larger-scale and more determined offensive along the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut line soon.”
Last week, Putin ordered his senior generals to carry on their advance towards western parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk province after the Russian army seized the country’s far eastern Luhansk area following months of heavy fighting.
Ukraine’s military in a Facebook post on Friday said Russian forces were regrouping in the direction of Kramatorsk, in order to resume the offensive towards Siversk.
Moscow-backed separatists said on Friday they were surrounding Siversk, claiming that Ukrainian troops were pulling out of the town.
“The Ukrainian command has decided to gradually pull out its units out of the town of Siversk,” Andrey Marochko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, told Russian state news agency Tass. The Guardian could not independently verify these claims.
July 15, 2022 at 08:51PM Pjotr Sauer