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12 dead in Russian attacks in central Ukraine ahead of EU talks

#dead #Russian #attacks #central #Ukraine #ahead #talks

Russian missiles hit the central Ukraine city of Vinnytsia on Thursday, killing at least 12 people in what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called an “open act of terrorism.”

Ukraine’s emergency services said there were “12 dead, including a baby, and 25 wounded” and dozens of rescue workers were struggling to put out a large fire sparked by the strikes.

The news came as EU foreign and justice ministers were preparing to meet in The Hague for a conference on alleged Russian war crimes.

Zelenskyi said he would speak at the meeting via video call, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba would attend.

“Every day Russia kills civilians, kills Ukrainian children, launches rocket attacks on civilian installations where there is no military target. What is this if not an open act of terrorism?” the leader of Ukraine said in a statement on social media.

– War crimes tribunal? –

Zelenskyy has vowed to hold Moscow accountable and has called for the establishment of a special war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague launched an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine just days after Moscow forces invaded, dispatching dozens of investigators to the country to collect evidence.

Her prosecutor Karim Khan also later visited Bucha, a town outside of Kyiv, where AFP journalists discovered 20 bodies in civilian clothes lying on a street, and where officials later said hundreds more people had been killed.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and the conflict has raged ever since, killing thousands, razing cities and forcing millions to flee their homes.

In recent weeks, Russian attacks in central Ukraine, away from the front lines in the east and south, have become relatively rare.

But war has raged around cities like Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine near the Black Sea, which the presidency said Thursday was hit by a “massive missile attack”.

“Two schools, transportation infrastructure and a hotel were damaged,” the presidency said in its morning military update.

The skeletal interior of a building burned out by the strikes was seen in pictures distributed by local officials, showing community workers clearing away bricks and rubble that had been scattered after the attack.

Fighting in Ukraine has focused on the industrial Donbass region in the east, but Kiev’s forces have pushed a grueling counteroffensive in the south to retake Kherson.

The presidency added – without elaborating – that residents along the southern front in the Kherson region reported an “increase in equipment and numbers of Russian troops.”

– ‘Total Victory’ –

In eastern Ukraine, Moscow-backed troops said they were closing in on their next target.

“Siversk is under our operational control, which means the enemy can be hit by our aimed fire anywhere in the area,” a pro-Moscow rebel official Daniil Bezsonov was quoted as saying by the Russian state news agency TASS.

In a Ukrainian trench along the eastern front, a 25-year-old soldier nicknamed Moryak was working to bolster defenses.

“We hide when they shoot, we dig when it’s quiet,” he told AFP journalists.

A comrade in their trench dismissed the idea that Ukrainian and Russian forces could reach an agreement to end the fighting, stating their goal was “total victory.”

– Grain talks with high stakes –

Several rounds of negotiations to end fighting early in the conflict broke down, but delegations from Kyiv and Moscow met in Istanbul this week to discuss unblocking Ukraine’s grain exports.

The high-stakes meeting with officials from the UN and Turkey in Istanbul was called off after just over three hours with an agreement to meet again next week in Turkey.

“The success of this story needs not only our state, but – without exaggeration – the whole world,” said Zelenskyj in his evening speech on Wednesday after the talks.

The conflict in Ukraine has pushed up grain prices and Europe is suffering from skyrocketing energy bills, a result of sanctions against Russia and Moscow’s measures to limit gas supplies to Europe.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday Russia’s war in Ukraine poses the “biggest challenge” to the global economy as G20 ministers prepare to start talks in Indonesia.

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