Attack in Kramatorsk: Rocket attack on pizza restaurant kills 10 people, including twin sisters

A Russian missile attack on a pizza restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk killed at least 10 people, including three teenagers and another child, and wounded more than 60 people.

City authorities also named 14-year-old twins Julia and Anna Aksenchenko among the dead. In a Telegram post, the city council offered its condolences to the girls’ parents, saying that “a Russian missile stopped the heartbeat of two angels.” Another girl, aged 17, was also killed. “We share the grief of your family and join you in bowing our heads in deep sorrow,” the councilman said.

The body of a child was also recovered from the rubble on Wednesday morning. “So far, rescuers have recovered the bodies of ten people from the rubble,” Veronika Bakhal, spokeswoman for the Donetsk region emergency services, told Ukrainian television.

What happened in the attack?

The Pizza RIA restaurant was popular with locals as well as aid workers and journalists – and was said to have been overcrowded during Tuesday night’s attack.

“I ran here after the blast because I was renting a coffee shop here… Everything was blown up,” said Valentyna, a 64-year-old woman who declined to give her last name. “No glass, windows or doors are left. All I see is destruction, fear and terror. This is the 21st century,” she told Reuters.

At least 61 people were injured in the strike, which turned the restaurant into a pile of twisted beams, according to police.

Rescue services posted online images of rescue teams using cranes and other equipment to search the site.

Search and rescue efforts continue after the Russian missile attack

(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The governor of Donetsk region – the area where Kramatorsk is located – Pavlo Kyrylenko told national television that people were visible under the rubble. Her condition is unknown, he said, but “we have experience in debris clearance.”

Video footage on military Telegram channels showed a man administering first aid on the sidewalk with his head bleeding.

Eight people were rescued alive from the rubble and at least three others are believed to be trapped, said Md Bakhal, spokeswoman for the Donetsk region emergency services.

The attack also damaged 18 multi-story buildings, 65 houses, five schools, two kindergartens, a mall, an administrative building and a recreation building, said the region’s governor Mr. Kyrylenko.

Why Kramatorsk?

Russia has been conducting an airstrike on Ukraine for months. Kramatorsk is a major city west of the front line in Donetsk Province and an important logistics hub. This would likely be a key objective in any Russian advance westward aimed at conquering the entire region.

The city has been a frequent target of Russian attacks, including an attack on the city’s train station in April 2022 that killed 63 people. It was one of the heaviest single air raids of the war. At least two attacks on homes and other civilian facilities occurred earlier in the year.

Officials initially blamed the Kramatorsk attack on an S-300 missile, a surface-to-air weapon that Russian forces have repurposed for targeted attacks on cities. However, the National Police later said short-range Iskander-type ballistic missiles had been deployed.

Russia denies targeting civilian sites in its invasion of Ukraine – which began in February 2022 – a claim dismissed by Ukrainian officials and Kiev’s western allies.

Kramatorsk’s position in the Donetsk region, one of four Ukrainian provinces Russia reportedly annexed last September but which is not fully controlled. Russia annexed the Crimea region almost a decade ago. The Ukrainian-held parts of the partially occupied provinces were hit particularly hard by the Russian bombardment.

The Kremlin is demanding that Kiev recognize the annexations, while Kiev has barred any talks with Russia until its troops withdraw from all occupied territories. Kiev recently launched a much-anticipated counter-offensive to retake occupied territories.

What other strikes have occurred in the last 24 hours?

A second rocket hit a village on the outskirts of Kramatorsk on Tuesday, injuring five people. Exactly one year after an attack on a shopping mall there that killed at least 20 people, a Russian missile also hit a cluster of buildings in Kremenchuk, some 230 miles west in central Ukraine. No casualties were reported in the latest attack.

Rescuers and volunteers work to rescue people from the rubble

(Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday morning, the head of the Kharkiv region said three civilians had been killed in Russian shelling.

“Unfortunately, as a result of this shelling, three civilians were killed near their homes in the village of Vovchanski Khutory,” Governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on the news app Telegram.

How was the Ukrainian reaction?

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities arrested a man they accused of helping Russia direct the missile attack. The security service of Ukraine claimed in a message on Telegram that the man filmed the restaurant for the Russians and informed them of his popularity.

Vasyl Malyuk, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, said in a statement: “The agent of the Russian Federation will definitely stand trial before the Ukrainian court.” But his detention is also a signal to all other Adjusters and traitors working for the enemy work. Remember – punishment is inevitable!”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his late night video message on Tuesday that the attacks showed that Russia “deserves only one thing for what it has done – defeat and a tribunal”.

Ukraine is pushing for the establishment of a war crimes tribunal to deal with Russia’s actions in Ukraine and has been gathering evidence of such alleged crimes.

Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report

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