At least 23 people, including three children, were killed when Russian missiles targeted the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy termed "an open act of terrorism."
As European Union officials convened in The Hague to consider Russia's war crimes in Ukraine, a lunchtime attack on a city hundreds of kilometers from the frontline and far from invading Russian forces took place on Thursday.
Two of the eight rockets impacted the city's central business district. There have been twenty fatalities, including three minors. During a speech to European authorities at The Hague to discuss war crimes by Moscow's soldiers, Zelenskyy stated, "There are a tremendous number of wounded."
Later, rescuers revised the death toll in the city to 23 while continuing to hunt for 39 others.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres was "appalled" by the attack on civilians in the city, while the European Union condemned the Russian missile attack as an "atrocity." Both demanded responsibility.
Before pushing EU and International Criminal Court (ICC) officials to establish a "special tribunal" to investigate Russia's invasion of his country and the massacre of civilians, Zelenskyy led a moment of silence.
"I believe it is inevitable that the International Criminal Court will bring those responsible for crimes within its jurisdiction to justice: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide," he stated.
Minister of the Interior of Ukraine, Denys Monastyrskyi, stated subsequently that two other missiles en way to the city were intercepted by air defenses.
War crimes tribunal
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague launched an inquiry into potential war crimes in Ukraine just days after Moscow's soldiers invaded the country in February and despatched scores of investigators to collect evidence.
Since Russia's invasion, thousands of people have been slain, cities have been destroyed, and millions have been forced to escape their homes.
"Every day, Russia kills civilians, including Ukrainian children, and carries out missile attacks on civilian facilities where no military target exists." What is this if not an act of terrorism in the open?" Zelenskyy said.
Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posted on Twitter that Russia had committed "another war crime."
"This is an act of terrorism. Intentional murder of civilians to instill fear. Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism and must be formally recognized as such, said Kuleba.
A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military stated that its forces were able to destroy two cruise missiles that were launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea and caused severe damage and deaths in Vinnytsia.
The war has raged around places such as Mykolaiv in the south, which according to the Ukrainian presidency, was the target of a "massive missile strike."
"Two schools, transportation infrastructure, and a hotel were damaged," the presidency reported Thursday morning in its military briefing.
The recent conflict in Ukraine has been concentrated in the industrial Donbas region in the east.
After seizing control of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk two weeks prior, forces supported by Moscow announced Thursday that they were closing in on their next objective, Siversk.
Daniil Bezsonov, a pro-Moscow rebel officer, was quoted by the Russian state-run news agency TASS as saying, "Siversk is under our operational control, which means our aimed fire can reach the enemy anywhere in the region."
According to Interfax, the deputy foreign minister of Russia, Andrey Rudenko, stated on Thursday that Moscow would respond favorably if Kyiv were willing to resume peace negotiations.
Rudenko added that Kyiv would have to affirm its non-aligned and non-nuclear status and legally recognize existing geographical realities.
Specifically, he stated that this would include recognizing that Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, was under Russian administration and that two rebel territories in eastern Ukraine no longer fell under Kyiv's jurisdiction.
Ukraine has consistently stated that it is unwilling to give territory to a hostile occupier and intends to reclaim any territory lost by force.
Several negotiations to cease the bloodshed at the outset of the crisis failed, but teams from Kyiv and Moscow met this week in Istanbul to discuss unblocking grain exports from Ukraine.
Officials from the United Nations and Turkey met for more than three hours and agreed to meet again in Turkey the following week.
Zelenskyy stated that "the entire world" relied on discussions to conclude a grain export agreement.