Russia defends submarine missile attack that killed 23 civilians

Moscow claims Kalibr missiles hit Ukraine air force meeting. Ukraine says 23 people, including three children, were killed.

Russia has attempted to justify a missile attack that killed 23 civilians – including three children – on the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, claiming its submarine-launched missiles had targeted a meeting of Ukrainian air force commanders and representatives of Western arms suppliers.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the midday attack on Thursday on Vinnytsia, a city far from the front lines of the conflict, “an open act of terrorism” which had killed civilians going about their everyday business.

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

Zelenskyy said the death toll in Vinnytsia was likely to rise. Dozens are still missing and many victims of the missiles have been hospitalised in critical condition.

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

 

“At the time of the strike, a meeting of the command of the Ukrainian Air Force with representatives of foreign arms suppliers was held,” the Russian defence ministry said.

“As a result of the strike, the participants of the meeting were destroyed,” the ministry said, claiming the meeting had focused on supplies of jets and weapons as well as repair of Ukraine’s aircraft.

Ukrainian authorities have insisted 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 slammed the Russian missile attack as an “atrocity”. Both have called for accountability.

‘We would lose her’

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

Liza’s severely injured mother, Iryna Dmitrieva, was being kept in an information blackout at a hospital for fear that finding out about her daughter would kill her, doctors said.

Undated photo of Liza Dmitrieva, a 4 year old who died in a Russian missile strike, in Vinnytsia, Ukraine [LogoClub Children's Center/Handout via Reuters]
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 is suffering from burns, chest injuries, abdominal injuries, liver and spleen injuries. We have stitched the organs together, the bones were crushed as if she went through a meat grinder,” Oleksandr Fomin, chief doctor at the Vinnytsia Emergency Hospital, said on Friday.

Were she told of her daughter’s death, “we would lose her,” the doctor said.

Vinnytsia’s Governor Serhiy Borzov said only 10 people among the dead had been identified so far.

“Russia deliberately hit civilians and all those responsible for the crime must be brought to account,” he said, denouncing the “barbaric behaviour” of Russian forces.

Following an initial silence after the attacks on Vinnytsia, Russia’s Ministry of Defence said Friday that its forces had attacked an “officers’ club” in the city – in Soviet times, the city’s concert hall that was hit was considered to be an officers’ club.

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

The invasion has also rippled through the world economy by raising prices and crimping exports of key Ukrainian and Russian products like grain, fuel and fertiliser.

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