- Ukraine says it is preparing for a counterattack from the south in the coming weeks.
- Both sides describe the progress made in lifting the blockade on Ukrainian grain exports.
- Russian invasion dominates G20 finance ministers meeting in Indonesia.
A Ukrainian town far from the front line on Friday mourned its dead, including a four-year-old girl, the day after a Russian missile attack that left at least 23 dead and dozens injured.
Ukraine said Thursday’s strike on an office building in Vinnytsia, a city of 370,000 people about 200 kilometers southwest of Kyiv, was carried out with Kalibr cruise missiles launched from a submarine. Russian in the Black Sea.
The attack was the latest in recent weeks in a series of Russian strikes using long-range missiles on crowded buildings in towns away from the front, each killing dozens of people.
Residents placed teddy bears and flowers on a makeshift memorial.
Among the dead was Liza, a four-year-old girl with Down syndrome, found in the rubble next to a pram. Images of her pushing the same pram, posted by her mother on a blog less than two hours before the attack, quickly went viral.
Her critically injured mother, Iryna Dmitrieva, was being kept in an informational blackout at a hospital for fear her daughter’s discovery would kill her, doctors said.
“She suffers from burns, injuries to her chest, abdomen, liver and spleen. We sewed the organs together, the bones were crushed as if she had gone through a meat grinder,” Oleksandr said. Fomin, head physician at Vinnytsia Emergency Hospital. said. If she were informed of her daughter’s death, “we would lose her”.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife Olena tweeted that she recognized the girl, who had once been part of a group of disabled children who painted Christmas decorations with the first lady in a holiday video .
“Look at her, alive, please,” wrote Olena Zelenska.
The building housed an officers’ club, which the Russian Defense Ministry said was used for a meeting between military officials and foreign arms suppliers. He added: “The attack resulted in the elimination of the participants.”
Ukraine said the club operated as a cultural center. The building also housed shops, commercial offices and a concert hall, where musicians were rehearsing for a pop concert scheduled for that evening. A nearby medical center was destroyed.
A security camera captured debris flying at the time of the blast, with two cyclists diving for cover before a cloud of dust obscured the sky.
Zelenskyy called Russia a terrorist state, called for more sanctions and said the death toll could rise.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the definitive number,” he said in a video address to an international conference aimed at prosecuting war crimes in Ukraine. An official from Zelenskyy’s office said 11 people were missing and 197 people had sought medical treatment.
Elsewhere in central Ukraine, Russian missiles hit Dnipro, killing three people and injuring 15 others, the local governor said on Telegram late Friday. Rockets hit an industrial plant and a nearby street, he said. Footage on social media showed thick black smoke rising from burning buildings and cars.
Ukraine is preparing a counter-offensive
Authorities in the southern city of Mykolaiv, closer to the front lines, reported fresh strikes on Friday that injured at least two people. They released video footage of firefighters battling the blaze in the rubble.
“This time they hit Mykolaiv around 7:50 a.m., knowing full well that there were already a lot of people on the streets at that time. Real terrorists!” Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych posted on social media.
The intensification of Russian attacks on towns far from the front comes at a time when the momentum seems to be changing after weeks of Russian gains.
Since capturing the eastern industrial cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in battles that killed thousands of soldiers on both sides, Russia has paused in its advance. A Ukrainian general said Kyiv had not lost “a single meter” of territory in a week.
Ukraine, meanwhile, launched new HIMARS rocket systems received from the United States, hitting targets deep in Russian-held territory. He appears to have blown up ammunition depots that Moscow relies on for massive artillery barrages.
The first M270 systems that will give Ukraine additional multi-rocket firepower have arrived in the country, Ukraine’s Defense Minister said on Friday. Russia launched its own multiple rocket launcher system in Sloviansk on Friday, the mayor of the eastern city said.
Ukraine says it is preparing for a counterattack in the coming weeks to retake part of the southern territory near the Black Sea coast.
Progress in grain exports
Despite the bloodshed, the two sides described progress towards an agreement to lift a blockade restricting the export of Ukrainian grain. Mediator Turkey said a deal could be signed next week.
Asked if that timeline was realistic, a senior Ukrainian official told Reuters: “We really hope so. We are rushing as fast as we can.” The source asked not to be identified.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a deal was close. The Russian negotiator, however, warned that a grain deal would not lead to a resumption of peace talks.
A deal would likely involve ship inspections to ensure Ukraine is not bringing in weapons, and guarantees from Western countries that Russia’s own food exports are exempt from sanctions.
Moscow on Thursday welcomed a written clarification from Washington that banks, insurers and shippers would not face sanctions for facilitating shipments of Russian grain and fertilizer.
The war dominated a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Indonesia on Friday. The conflict involving two of the world’s major grain exporters and one of its major oil and gas producers is causing inflation, a financial crisis, global food and energy shortages and, potentially, hunger.
“By unleashing this war, Russia is solely responsible for the negative fallout on the global economy, particularly the rise in commodity prices,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told Russian officials at the meeting that she held them personally responsible for “war crimes”, a Western official told Reuters.
Russia calls its February 24 intervention a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and root out nationalists. Kyiv and its allies call it an attempt to reclaim a country that broke free from Moscow’s rule in 1991.
Britain has summoned the Russian ambassador after Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine said a Briton in their custody had died of health problems.
The separatists, who captured Paul Urey, 45, in April, accused him of being a mercenary. A British relief group, Presidium Network, described him as a humanitarian volunteer.
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Post expires at 2:28am on Thursday July 21st, 2022