By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Residents of the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsya on July 15 mourned the deaths of 23 people killed by a Russian missile strike the day before, while in the east of the country Russian forces pounded other sites in a push to grab more territory.
Among the dead in Vinnytsya were a 4-year-old girl and two boys, ages 7 and 8. They perished in another Russian bombardment of a city located far from the front line that took a heavy toll in civilian lives.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said air raid sirens were going off across the country late on July 15, including in Dnipro and Kremenchuk, two cities south of Kyiv along the Dnieper River.
“The occupiers are realizing that we are gradually becoming stronger and the purpose of their terror is very simple — to put pressure on us, to put pressure on our society, to intimidate people, to cause maximum harm to Ukrainian cities, at least while the Russian terrorists are still capable of doing it,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation.
The death of the 4-year-old has drawn attention from around the world. She was the daughter of Iryna Dmitrieva and was born with Downs Syndrome. Until the day of the air strike her mother wrote a blog on the difficulties and joys of raising a child with Downs.
Liza’s body was found after the attack on Vinnytsya next to a stroller. Images of her pushing the same stroller, posted by her mother on the blog less than two hours before the attack, went viral.
Dmitrieva, who was severely injured, remains hospitalized in a coma. Doctors said they needed to keep her daughter’s death from her because if she found out, “We would lose her.”
Zelenskiy’s wife, Olena, tweeted that she recognized the girl, who had once been among a group of disabled children who painted Christmas ornaments with the first lady in a holiday video.
Rescue teams searching the rubble in Vinnytsya were trying to locate some of at least 39 people unaccounted for there.
State Emergency Services said at least 52 people were injured in Vinnytsya. The city council there said many of them were in serious or critical condition.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said three children were among those killed, calling the attack the “deliberate murder of civilians to spread fear” and calling Russia “a terrorist state.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that it was targeting “a meeting of the command of the Ukrainian air force with representatives of foreign arms suppliers.”
Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said it was the third version of Russia’s explanation for the attack.
Ignat added that while a building damaged in the air strike belonged to the air force, it served as a de facto cultural institution.
“The largest concerts of Ukrainian stars were held here, dozens of children’s clubs, trade unions and children’s organizations worked here,” he said.
The building included recording studios, a cafe, and a branch of Privatbank, he added.
The Ukrainian State Service for Emergency Situations reported earlier that the Kharkiv Oblast and the regional center were struck with rockets overnight. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Kyiv has been saying for weeks that Russian forces are trying to make Kharkiv a “frontline city” in the war, which has otherwise shifted heavily to eastern regions around where Russia-backed separatists have held territory since 2014.
The city of Bakhmut also was shelled again on July 15. According to the police, one rocket was fired at the central market of the city in the Donetsk region, two more at a residential quarter.
At least six people were injured in the attack, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the regional military administration, on Telegram.
“The city remains one of the hottest spots in the region,” Kyrylenko said. He also published a video of the aftermath of the Russian attack.
“The Russians continue to strike along the entire front and in the cities in the relative rear,” he said. At least two people were killed and two were injured in the shelling of several towns.
The claims could not be independently verified. Russia denies that it is waging a war of aggression against Ukraine, calling it a “special operation.”
As the fighting raged, Russia noted progress in talks on a possible deal to allow Ukraine to use the Black Sea to export millions of tons of grain.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said a final document had been prepared and that other participants had “largely supported” Russian proposals to help ease grain shipments through Ukrainian ports.
Work on the initiative was to be completed shortly, he said. It would allow shipments of food “while excluding the use of those logistical chains for the deliveries of weapons and military equipment” to Ukraine. He also said the plan seeks to “prevent any provocations.”
Talks on grain exports took place earlier this in Istanbul between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Russia and Ukraine had taken “a critical step” toward ensuring exports of the desperately needed grain.
Across the globe, host Indonesia has warned that G20 finance leaders gathering in Bali must make progress tackling the global economic threats sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine or face catastrophic humanitarian consequences.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen condemned Russia’s “brutal and unjust war” in Ukraine and said Russian finance officials taking part in the meeting share responsibility for the “horrific consequences” of the war.
During his visit to Israel, U.S. President Joe Biden said on July 14 that “Putin’s war must be [made into] a strategic failure.”