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‘All I see is destruction, fear and horror’: Deadly Russian missile strike hits crowded Ukrainian restaurant

todayAugust 12, 2023 3

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‘All I see is destruction, fear and horror’: Deadly Russian missile strike hits crowded Ukrainian restaurant

At least 11 people have been killed – including children – and 61 injured after a Russian missile struck a pizza restaurant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region.

A second missile hit a village on the fringes of the city, injuring five people.

“Russia doesn’t hit civilians only military targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told Sky News, while Russian state TV explained the missile attacks, saying they were aimed at “NATO instructors” and that “the objective was achieved”. It presented no evidence to justify that claim.

WARNING: This story contains distressing content

“I ran here after the explosion because I rented a cafe here… Everything has been blown out there,” a woman in Kramatorsk told Reuters news agency.

“None of the glass, windows or doors are left. All I see is destruction, fear and horror.”

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Department of Education of the Kramatorsk City Council tribute to two sisters Yuliya and Anna who died after the  missile  attack in Kramatorsk

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Kramatorsk’s education department paid tribute to sisters Yuliya and Anna Aksenchenko, aged 14, who died in the missile attack

Officials said three girls – two sisters aged 14, and a 17-year-old – were among those killed in the explosion.

The city’s mayor, Oleksandr Goncharenko, said the body of a boy was pulled from the rubble on Wednesday morning. He did not give the child’s age.

“It is with sadness and unbearable pain that we report the death of two Aksenchenko sisters, Yuliya and Anna, students of Kramatorsk Primary School No. 24,” the city’s education department said in a statement.

“This year they graduated from the eighth grade, and on 4 September they should have celebrated their 15th anniversary, a Russian rocket stopped the beating of the hearts of two angels.”

The Russian missile strike in central Kramatorsk. Pic: Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko via Reuters

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The Russian missile strike in central Kramatorsk. Pic: Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko via Reuters

People react at the site of a restaurant building heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in central Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine June 27, 2023. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Police and rescue workers   walk in front of a restaurant RIA Pizza destroyed by a Russian attack in Kramatorsk, Ukraine
Pic:National Police of Ukraine/AP

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Pic: National Police of Ukraine via AP

Images showed the building reduced to a twisted web of metal beams with rescue teams searching the area for survivors.

The missile strike occurred on Tuesday evening in a busy shopping area – and the pizza restaurant was reported to be popular with journalists.

A freelance journalist said he was in the RIA pizza restaurant 10 minutes before it was hit.

Arnaud De Decker said that an hour after the explosions, he could still hear “people screaming underneath the rubble”.

He shared a photo of his meal on social media about 20 minutes before the attack took place.

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‘Eight-month-old baby injured in explosion’

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, said emergency services were trying to establish the total number of casualties.

“This is the city centre. These were public eating places crowded with civilians,” he told Ukrainian television.

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska also condemned the attack.

“Crowded place, evening – enemy do not want normal life in Ukraine,” she wrote on Twitter.

“There are a lot of wounded. It is painful.”

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Children injured in deadly attack on Kramatorsk

Ukraine’s defence ministry shared footage showing the extensive damage to local buildings and a distressed mother looking for her missing daughter, who she said worked in the restaurant that was hit.

In a statement it said: “Russia is still targeting civilians in Ukraine.”

It said children were among the dead, and an infant was injured in the blast.

Rescues and volunteers carry a woman rescued from the debris at the site of hotel and restaurant buildings heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in central Kramatorsk, Donetsk

Rescues and volunteers wort at a site of hotel and restaurant buildings heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in central Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine June 27, 2023. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak

People clear the rubble on the roof of the restaurant. Pic: National Police of Ukraine via AP

Image:
Pic: National Police of Ukraine via AP

Russian missile ‘designed to bring down a plane’ hit pizzeria

Sky News’ international affairs editor Dominic Waghorn said the restaurant was popular with locals and well known to foreign journalists who would often stop there on their way to the frontline.

He said an eight-month-old baby is one of the dozens injured.

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Victim of Russian missile attack speaks

“For some reason, someone in the Russian military thought it would be a good idea to fire an S-300, a surface-to-air missile,” Waghorn said.

“That’s a missile that’s seven metres long, packed with explosives, normally fired from the back of a truck and designed to bring down a plane.

“It’s a pretty accurate bit of ammunition. So they probably knew exactly what they were firing at and unless there was a military justification for attacking a pizza restaurant, which almost certainly there wasn’t, this is an alleged war crime.”

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‘Where everybody ate. Where they came to feel normal’

By Katy Scholes, Sky News producer

My Ukrainian colleague sent me a picture on WhatApp, a blown-out building both familiar and unrecognisable. The doors we walked through just weeks earlier had been ripped from their hinges; the windows now great big holes laden with the ordinary things you usually find inside a restaurant.

In a video I saw later, a dusty credit card machine rested on a windowsill and reminded me of the young, smiling staff we got to know.

Pizza RIA wasn’t the only restaurant open in Kramatorsk but it was considered the best one. It had the highest reviews on Google so people flocked there – locals, journalists, and off-duty soldiers.

Back in the early days of the invasion, almost everything in Kramatorsk was closed and most people had left. The city was under direct fire and direct threat.

After the Kharkiv counteroffensive pushed the Russians back out of artillery range from the city, in time, things started to re-open. People came back.

There’s pleasure in watching life returning to a place. That’s what we saw and felt when we worked from Kramatorsk six weeks or so ago, the last time we visited Pizza RIA.

There was a birthday party that day. Women tottered past us in their highest heels and most glamorous dresses clutching silvery gifts. Some held the hands of children as they went by. A kids’ entertainer dressed as a giant teddy bear bumped about with a stitched scar on his forehead – like everyone else in this place, he’d been in the wars.

Kramatorsk is now about 30km from the nearest fighting but the sound of shells is never far. This was a place where people came to feel normal. Pizza RIA was not a military target.

This is a grim reminder that for civilians living near the frontline, there is no escape from the war.

Russia denies targeting civilians

Asked about the attack in Kramatorsk, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said: “We condemn Russia’s brutal strikes against the people of Ukraine, which have caused widespread death and destruction and taken the lives of so many Ukrainian civilians.”

“Strikes are carried out on objects that are connected with military infrastructure in one way or another,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

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Russia confirms Kramatorsk strike

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians since invading Ukraine on 24 February last year.

The Russian strikes are among the first since an aborted mutiny at the weekend.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he let the armed march on Moscow by the Wagner mercenaries go on as long as it did to avoid bloodshed, while the group’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin who led the uprising has said he never intended to overthrow the government.

Russian authorities say they have closed a criminal investigation into the uprising and are pressing no armed rebellion charge against Prigozhin or his followers.

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