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Russian missiles kill 20 people in Ukraine

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Russian missiles that struck a city in central Ukraine have killed at least 20 people and wounded about 90 more, Ukrainian authorities say.

The country’s president called the attack “an open act of terrorism” against civilians in locations without military value.

Ukraine’s national police said three missiles hit an office building and damaged nearby residential buildings in Vinnytsia, which is 268km south-west of the capital, Kyiv.

A Russian submarine in the Black Sea fired Kalibr cruise missiles at the city, and three children were among the dead, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The Russian military has not confirmed the strike.

The missiles ignited a fire that expanded to engulf 50 cars in an adjacent parking lot, officials said. Ukrainian police said people were reported missing.

The governor of the Vinnytsia region, Serhiy Borzov, said Ukrainian air defence systems shot down another four missiles over the area.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested the attack was deliberately aimed at civilians. The strike happened as government officials from about 40 countries met in The Hague to discuss co-ordinating efforts to investigate and prosecute potential war crimes in Ukraine.

“Every day Russia is destroying the civilian population, killing Ukrainian children, directing missiles at civilian objects. Where there is no military [targets]. What is it if not an open act of terrorism?” Mr Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

Vinnytsia is one of Ukraine’s largest cities, with a population of 370,000. Thousands of people from eastern Ukraine, where Russia has concentrated its offensive, have fled there since the start of the war.

Before the missiles hit Vinnytsia, the president’s office reported the deaths of five civilians and the wounding of another eight in Russian attacks over the past day.

One person was wounded when a missile damaged several buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv early Thursday, Ukrainian authorities said. A missile attack on Wednesday killed at least five people in the city.

Russian forces also continued artillery and missile attacks in eastern Ukraine, primarily in Donetsk province after overtaking adjacent Luhansk. The city of Lysychansk, the last major stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, fell to Russian forces at the beginning of the month.

Luhansk and Donetsk together make up the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking region of steel factories, mines and other industries.

The British Defence Ministry said on Thursday that despite continued shelling in the Donbas region, Russian forces did not make major territorial gains in recent days.

“The ageing vehicles, weapons and Soviet-era tactics used by Russian forces do not lend themselves to quickly regaining or building momentum unless used in overwhelming mass – which Russia is currently unable to bring to bear,” the British ministry said.

Both the Russian forces and Ukrainian militaries are seeking to replenish their depleted stocks of unmanned aerial vehicles to pinpoint enemy positions and guide artillery strikes.

In other news, a top Russian official said Moscow would respond positively should Kyiv be ready to resume peace negotiations, but that Ukraine must accept the “territorial realities” of the situation, the Interfax news agency reports.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said Kyiv must provide a clear response to Moscow’s proposals that Ukraine accept “non-aligned” and “non-nuclear” status in order to strike a peace deal.

President Zelensky would also have to recognise Russia’s control over Crimea and the status of the breakaway “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk, Interfax reported on Thursday, a day after Kyiv ruled out territorial concessions.

Negotiations on a possible peace deal have been stalled since tentative rounds of talks between the two sides broke down just weeks into the conflict.

-AP, Reuters