Ukraine: 23 dead in new Russian strikes on a city, the head of the UN “appalled”

KYIV | The UN secretary-general said he was “appalled” and the European Union (EU) denounced new “atrocities” on Thursday after Russian strikes on a town in central Ukraine left at least 23 dead , an “openly terrorist act” for the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

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In Vinnytsia, a town far from the front lines, well west of the capital, Kyiv, images released by Ukraine’s emergency service showed dozens of charred carcasses and a ten-storey building. of floors ravaged by the explosion and the fire that followed.

According to the Ukrainian army, “three missiles” hit the parking lot and this commercial building in the center of the city, housing offices and small businesses. They were fired from submarines in the Black Sea, said Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat.

“Every day Russia kills civilians, kills Ukrainian children, fires missiles at civilian targets where there is nothing military. What is it, if not an openly terrorist act?” said Volodymyr Zelensky immediately after the strike which occurred at the end of the morning in a region of the country until then relatively spared by the war.

The Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted on Telegram by the editor-in-chief of the Russian public media group Rossia Segodnya, Margarita Simonian, claimed to have targeted Vinnytsia “the House of Officers, where nationalists had been deployed”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, for his part, said he was “appalled”, recalling that the organization condemned “any attack against civilians or civilian infrastructure”, according to his spokesperson.

The EU slammed Russia’s “barbaric behaviour”.

“These atrocities in Vinnytsia are the latest in a long series of brutal attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Commissioner for Security said in a statement. crisis management, Janez Lenarcic. “There can be no impunity for the violations and crimes committed by Russian forces and their political leaders.”

“Special Court”

These new strikes came precisely at a time when a conference on crimes committed in Ukraine was being prepared in The Hague, organized by the International Criminal Court, the European Commission and the Netherlands.

In a videoconference intervention, Volodymyr Zelensky called for the creation of a “special court” responsible for judging “the crimes of Russian aggression against Ukraine”.

At the conference in The Hague, attended by the Ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs of EU countries, he reported 20 dead, “including three children”, and “many” wounded.

Ukrainian relief then revised this toll upwards: 23 dead and 39 missing.

The head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, present in The Hague, denounced a new “Russian war crime”.

At the same time, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed alarm at Moscow’s treatment of Ukrainian civilians in “filtration camps” to determine possible links with the armed forces. . “If this is the case, these people are separated from the others and often simply disappear”, underline the experts of the OSCE in a report.

Strikes on the south

For several weeks, Russian strikes away from the front lines had been relatively rare.

But the war is now raging around cities like the strategic port of Mykolaiv (south), near the Black Sea, which was hit early Thursday morning by a “massive missile strike” for the second consecutive day.

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“Two schools, transport infrastructure and a hotel were damaged,” the presidency said in its daily morning briefing.

Footage released by local authorities shows the remains of a building destroyed by bombardment, with municipal workers picking up debris strewn from the attack.

Ukraine, for its part, has launched a counter-offensive for several weeks to retake Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Moscow since February 24. While the front line remains relatively stable, these attacks are increasingly powerful, with new US and European rocket systems targeting arms depots.

“Total Victory”

The main battles, however, remain concentrated in eastern Ukraine and the Donbass, an industrial and mining basin that Moscow has promised to completely conquer.

According to the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergiï Gaïdaï, “massive artillery and mortar attacks continue [et] the Russians are trying to break through to Siversk and open the way to Bakhmout”, where a civilian died in bombardments on the night of Wednesday to Thursday.

The pro-Russian separatists supported by Moscow claim for their part to be close to winning a new victory there, a few days after taking several important cities.

“Siversk is under our operational control, which means that the enemy can be hit by our fire throughout the area,” said a separatist official, Daniïl Bezsonov, quoted by the Russian news agency TASS.

AFP was unable to independently confirm this information.

A little further north, in the region of Izioum, “we dig when it’s calm, we hide when it’s shooting”, confided to AFP a Ukrainian soldier in labyrinthine trenches several tens of meters long built by the Ukrainian army, to the sound of artillery fire.

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One of the officers, however, declared that “the situation is under control”, affirming that the Russian army was no longer advancing in this area and that the objective for Ukraine was now “total victory”.

Hope on cereals

On Wednesday, during a meeting of military experts in Istanbul, Russia and Ukraine also made progress on the thorny issue of blocking grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

“Really substantial progress” has been made, commented UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who said he hoped that a “formal agreement” could be concluded soon and who spoke of “a glimmer of hope to relieve human suffering and world hunger”.

The negotiations launched more than two months ago aim to export through the Black Sea some 20 million tonnes of grain blocked in Ukrainian silos, particularly in Odessa, while facilitating Russian exports of grain and fertilizers.

Ukraine is one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat and other grains, and time is running out as rising global food prices pose famine risks, especially in Africa.

The war in Ukraine is the “greatest challenge” to the global economy, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday ahead of a G20 meeting in Indonesia.

Oil prices also briefly slumped by more than 5% on Thursday, falling to levels not seen since the start of the war, carried away by fears of a global recession in a context of record inflation in the United States. United States and the euro zone.

President Emmanuel Macron has warned that the conflict in Ukraine will “last” and that the French must prepare to do without Russian gas, which Moscow uses as a “weapon of war”.

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