Warning sirens sound in Ukrainian capital as Russia steps up bombardment

Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv on Saturday as Russia escalated long-range bombardment of Ukrainian cities which has killed at least 34 people in the past three days and left dozens injured.

Late Friday, Russian missiles struck the central city of Dnipro, killing three people and injuring 15, regional governor Valentyn Reznychenko said on Telegram. Rockets hit an industrial plant and a nearby street, he said. Footage on social media showed thick black smoke rising from burning buildings and cars.

Eight people were killed and 13 injured in a series of shellings in 10 localities in the eastern region of Donetsk, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a television interview.

On Thursday, Kalibr cruise missiles launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea hit an office building in Vinnytsia, a city of 370,000 people about 200 km southwest of Kyiv.

Kyiv said the strike killed at least 23 people and injured dozens.

The attacks were the latest in a series of Russian strikes in recent weeks using long-range missiles on crowded buildings in towns far from the front, each killing dozens of people.

In Vinnytsia, residents placed teddy bears and flowers on a makeshift memorial to those killed.

Among the dead was Liza, a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome, found in the rubble next to a pram. Images of her pushing the same pram, posted by her mother on a blog less than two hours before the attack, quickly went viral.

Her critically injured mother, Iryna Dmitrieva, was being kept in an informational blackout at a hospital for fear the discovery of her daughter would kill her, doctors said.

“She suffers from burns, injuries to her chest, abdomen, liver and spleen. We sewed the organs together, the bones were crushed as if through a meat grinder,” said Oleksandr Fomin, chief physician at Vinnytsia Emergency Hospital. If she learned of her daughter’s death, “we would lose her.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said the strike on Vinnytsia targeted a building where senior Ukrainian armed forces officials were meeting with foreign arms suppliers.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas, despite mounting evidence that its missiles hit residential areas across the country. The United Nations says thousands of civilians have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Tens of thousands of fighters were also killed.

Grain advancement

Despite the bloodshed, the two sides described progress towards an agreement to lift a blockade restricting the export of Ukrainian grain. Mediator Turkey said a deal could be signed next week.

When asked if that timeline was realistic, a senior Ukrainian official said Reuters“We really hope so. We are hurrying as quickly as possible. The official asked not to be identified.

Employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Donetsk People’s Republic clear the rubble from the side of the damaged building. (AP Photo/File)

The Russian Defense Ministry said a deal was close, but the Moscow negotiator warned that a grain deal would not lead to a resumption of peace talks.

A deal would likely involve ship inspections to ensure Ukraine is not importing weapons and guarantees from Western countries that Russia’s own food exports are exempt from sanctions.

The war dominated a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Indonesia. Two sources said the group was unlikely to issue an official statement on Saturday. Russia is among them, as are the industrial powers of the G7, as well as China, India and South Africa, among others.

Western sources had warned this week that it would be difficult to agree on a statement because the body works on the basis of consensus and Russia had blocked language on the cause of the economic slowdown which has pushed the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to downgrade their forecasts.

“The G20’s capacity for action and communication is very strongly hampered by the war in Ukraine, for which one of the G20 members is fully responsible,” said a source from the French finance ministry.

Russia describes its intervention as a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and root out nationalists. Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked attempt to reclaim a country that broke free from Moscow’s rule in 1991.

Christi C. Elwood