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Western officials accused their Russian counterparts of war crimes on Friday after Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian city far behind the frontlines in an attack Kyiv officials said killed at least 23 people.

Ukraine said Thursday's strike on Vinnytsia, a city of 370,000 people about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Kyiv, had been carried out with Kalibr cruise missiles launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea.

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

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said the building it struck on Thursday was used to train troops. Ukraine said it was an office building housing a cultural centre used by retired veterans.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called Russia a terrorist state, urged more sanctions against the Kremlin and said the death toll in Vinnytsia could rise.

"Unfortunately, this is not the final number. Debris clearance continues. Dozens of people are reported missing. There are seriously injured (people) among those hospitalised,” he said in a video address.

Zelenskiy told an international conference aimed at prosecuting war crimes in Ukraine that the attack had been mounted on "an ordinary, peaceful city".

"No other state in the world poses such a terrorist threat as Russia,” Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine's state emergency service said three children, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed in Thursday's attack. Another 71 people were hospitalised and 29 people were missing.

It posted a photograph on its Telegram channel of a toy kitten, a toy dog and flowers lying in the grass. "The little girl Lisa, killed by the Russians today, has become a ray of sunshine," it said. Images of the girl, who had Down's Syndrome, pushing a pram like one found in the debris, went viral online.

Authorities in the southern city of Mykolaiv, closer to the frontlines, reported fresh Russian strikes on Friday morning, which wounded at least two people.

"This time, they hit Mykolaiv around 7:50 a.m., knowing full well that there were already many people on the streets at that time. Real terrorists!" Mykolaiv mayor Oleksandr Senkevych posted on social media.

G20 MEETING

The Vinnytsia attack overshadowed the start of a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Indonesia on Friday, where the top U.S. and Canadian representatives accused Russian officials in attendance of culpability in atrocities.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a "special operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" its neighbour. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen condemned Russia's "brutal and unjust war" and said Russian finance officials shared responsibility. read more 

"By starting this war, Russia is solely responsible for negative spillovers to the global economy, particularly higher commodity prices," she said.

Russian officials participating in the meeting were "adding to the horrific consequences of this war through their continued support of the Putin regime", she added.

"You share responsibility for the innocent lives lost and the ongoing human and economic toll that the war is causing around the world," she said, addressing the Russian officials.

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told Russian officials at the meeting that she held them personally responsible for "war crimes", a Western official told Reuters.

As Russia pressed its offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, the United States and more than 40 other countries agreed on Thursday to coordinate investigations into suspected war crimes. read more 

GHOST TOWN

The stepped-up Russian attacks on cities far from the front comes at a time when momentum appears to be shifting in the near-five-month war after weeks of Russian gains.

After capturing the eastern industrial cities of Sievierodonetsk and Luhansk in huge battles that killed thousands of troops on both sides, Russia has paused its advance. A Ukrainian general said on Thursday Kyiv had not lost "a single metre" of territory in a week.

Ukraine has meanwhile unleashed new HIMARS rocket systems received from the United States, striking targets deep in Russian-held territory. It appears to have focused on Russian logistics, blowing up depots of ammunition that Moscow relies on for the massive artillery barrages that accompany its assaults.

Ukraine says it is preparing a counter-attack in coming weeks to recapture a swath of southern territory near the Black Sea coast, where authorities installed by Moscow say they are planning referendums on joining Russia.

The war in Ukraine has sent prices soaring for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser, stoking a global food crisis. Negotiators hope a deal will be signed next week. read more 

The United States took steps on Thursday to facilitate Russian food and fertiliser exports by reassuring banks, shipping and insurance companies that such transactions would not breach Washington's sanctions on Moscow.

Enabling those Russian exports is part of attempts by the United Nations and Turkey to broker a package deal with Moscow that would unlock a blockade on the Black Sea port of Odesa to allow for shipments of Ukrainian grain. read more 

The eastern Ukrainian town of Popasna that fell to Russian forces two months ago is now a ghost town with little sign of life. read more 

A Reuters reporter who visited the town on Thursday found it almost deserted, with nearly all apartment buildings destroyed or heavily damaged.

Former resident Vladimir Odarchenko stood inside his damaged home and surveyed the debris strewn across the floor.

"I have no idea what I'm going to do. Where to live? I don't know," he said.

Source: Reuters

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