Chris Lange, FISM News
Russian cruise missiles struck a city in central Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least 23 people, including children, and wounding more than 100 others.
Ukraine accused Russia of deliberately targeting civilians in locations without military value. The strikes occurred in Vinnytsia, located roughly 170 miles southwest of Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials said Kalibr cruise missiles were used in the attack that were fired from a Russian warship in the Black Sea, damaging a medical clinic, residential buildings, offices, and markets.
National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said only six bodies had been identified so far, while 39 people were still missing. Three children under the age of 10 were among the dead.
Vinnytsia regional Gov. Serhiy Borzov said Ukrainian air defenses were able to intercept two of the four incoming Russian missiles. Borzov noted that a total of 36 apartment buildings were damaged as residents scrambled to evacuate the structures.
“These are quite high-precision missiles…They knew where they were hitting,” Borzov told the AP.
Russia’s defense ministry acknowledged the strikes but denied targeting civilians, according to Reuters.
“The facility was hosting a conference of the Ukrainian Armed Forces command with representatives of foreign arms suppliers … The attack resulted in the elimination of the participants,” the ministry said.
“Russia only strikes at military targets in Ukraine,” Evgeny Varganov, a member of Russia’s permanent U.N. mission, told the chamber. Varganov said that the strikes targeted an officer’s home “where preparations by Ukrainian armed forces were underway.”
Margarita Simonyan, head of the state-controlled Russian television network RT, said on her messaging app channel that military officials told her a building in Vinnytsia was targeted because it housed Ukrainian “Nazis,” according to the AP report.
Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas, despite clear and mounting evidence that its missiles have hit residential areas across the country. The U.N. estimates that thousands of civilians have been killed in the war so far.
Griner back in Russian court
American basketball star Brittney Griner appeared before a Russian court again Friday in her drug possession trial after pleading guilty to the charges last week.
Griner’s defense lawyers presented evidence that she had been given permission to use cannabis for chronic pain by Arizona health authorities.
“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis. The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health,” lawyer Maria Blagovolina said, according to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.
Griner’s defense also submitted negative results from tests she underwent as part of an anti-doping check. The results showed no prohibited substances in her system.
Griner was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after customs officials said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She admitted in court that the canisters were in her possession but denied any criminal intent, saying they were accidentally placed in her luggage as a result of hasty packing. The WNBA star and two-time Olympian had traveled to Russia to play for the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team.
The next hearing in Griner’s case is scheduled for July 26. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said that the administration is working to secure Griner’s release.