Russian Missiles Hit Ukraine From Black Sea As US Accuses Moscow Of ‘Crimes Against Humanity’
(RFE/RL) — Russia continued its missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian military and civilian sites on February 18 while top U.S. officials accused Moscow of “crimes against humanity” in the war and said Russian forces had suffered 200,000 casualties as the conflict neared the one-year anniversary.
At least two civilians were wounded and the windows of several homes shattered in the city of Khmelnytskiy in western Ukraine on February 18, as Russia launched missiles from the Black Sea, Ukrainian authorities said.
At the same time, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, said the United States has concluded that Russia committed “crimes against humanity” in its unprovoked war against Ukraine, with its forces having pursued “widespread and systemic” attacks against civilians in the country.
Also in Munich, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said U.S. experts have calculated that Russia has suffered about 200,000 killed or wounded in the war and that more than 1 million Russians “have left their country because they do not want to be part of this war and the direction that the country is being taken.”
“Look at what has happened, what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has done to his own country,” Blinken added.
Battlefield claims, including casualty figures on both sides, have been difficult to verify in the war that began with Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022.
On February 18, Ukraine’s air force said its air defenses shot down two of the four Kalibr missiles Russia fired from the Black Sea.
According to Oleksandr Symchyshyn, the mayor of Khmelnytskiy, two explosions were heard in the city, which lies 274 kilometers west of the capital, Kyiv.
“There are three damaged educational institutions and around 10 damaged high-rise apartment blocks. Around 500 windows and balconies have been destroyed,” he told Ukraine’s national television.
Ukraine’s state nuclear company said on February 18 that two Russian cruise missiles flew close to the South Ukraine nuclear plant.
Ukraine briefly issued air-raid alerts nationwide in the morning on February 18 amid the threat of a fresh round of Russian strikes. The sirens went off in all regions with the exception of Kharkiv, Sumy, and Poltava. Most of the alerts were lifted shortly afterward.
The Russian military launched 41 missile strikes on Ukraine during the night on February 16 and Ukrainian air-defense forces shot down 16 of the missiles, according to the General Staff of Ukraine’s military.
Russia has launched repeated waves of strikes on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, especially on its energy facilities, since early October, at times leaving millions of people without electricity, heating, and water supplies during the cold winter.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on February 18 that its forces had captured Hryanykivka, a village in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, after an offensive push. The claim cannot be independently verified.
Ukraine’s General Staff had said in a briefing note earlier in the day that Hrianykivka was being shelled, but it made no mention of a Russian assault.
Much of the discussions at the Munich Security Conference centered on the war in Ukraine and talks of possible increased Western aid to Kyiv.
In her comments, Harris accused Russian forces of “gruesome acts of murder, torture, rape, and deportation, execution-style killings, beatings, and electrocution.”
“I say to all those who have perpetrated these crimes and to their superiors who are complicit in these crimes: You will be held to account…. Justice must be served,” Harris said.