The strike on Kramatorsk’s central square, called Peace Square, left a two-meter crater and shattered the windows of surrounding buildings but did not cause any casualties because it occurred after curfew, an official says of the anti-aircraft defense of the 81st Ukrainian brigade, on condition of anonymity.

“I was on my balcony, I saw something burning in the middle of the square, then it exploded,” said Genya, a 72-year-old resident.

Previously, at least three strikes had hit south of Kramatorsk, towards the airport, where AFP reporters saw a large plume of smoke. From a height, they saw another above Sloviansk, a city also coveted by the Russians.

The Russian Defense Ministry has accused Ukrainian forces of shelling Sloviansk under the guise of Russian strikes “in order to instill anti-Russian feelings among the civilian population”.

These bombings on cities come after cruise missile strikes devastated the center of Vinnytsia, hundreds of kilometers to the west.

“The identification of all those guilty” of this attack “has already begun”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday evening, recalling the toll of 23 dead, but also four missing and more than 200 injured, including four in a critical state.

“Russian society, with so many murderers and executioners, will remain annihilated for generations, and this by its own fault”, he launched, affirming that almost all of Ukraine was under air alert Friday evening with strikes reported in Dnipro (east), Kremenchuk (southeast of Kyiv) and in the Kyiv region.

Shortly after, the Ukrainian Air Force said Russian Kh-101 missiles had been fired around 10 p.m. from the Caspian Sea at Dnipro, four of which were destroyed but several hit an industrial site with no apparent casualties. .

The UN secretary general said he was “appalled” and the EU denounced new “atrocities” and “barbaric” behavior by the Russians.

Faced with these condemnations, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Friday that it had struck a meeting of the “command of the Ukrainian air forces with representatives of foreign arms suppliers”.

A senior US defense official, however, observed, on condition of anonymity, to have “no indication of the presence of a military target nearby”.

Among the dead are three children including Liza Dmitrieva, a four-year-old girl with Down syndrome whom her mother Iryna was pushing in a bright pink stroller. The latter, amputated of a leg, is between life and death.

Russia has never recognized any blunders or crimes by its armed forces in Ukraine and systematically ensures that it only hits military targets.

– “Full responsibility” –

Also on Friday, the announcement by pro-Russian separatist authorities in the Donetsk region of the death in captivity of a Briton, Paul Urey, rekindled hostilities between London and Moscow.

A UK-based NGO, Presidium Network, announced on April 29 that two aid workers, Paul Urey and Dylan Healy, had been captured by the Russian army in southern Ukraine.

But according to Daria Morozova, a leader of the Donetsk separatists, Paul Urey had “directed military operations, recruited and trained mercenaries” for the Ukrainian forces.

Suffering from diabetes, kidney, respiratory and heart problems, as well as “stress”, he died on July 10, she assured on Telegram.

In London, the British Foreign Office said it had summoned Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin.

According to Presidium Network, Paul Urey had previously spent eight years in Afghanistan.

The International Defense Legion of Ukraine, which brings together foreign volunteer fighters, said that Paul Urey was not his own but “employee of a humanitarian organization”.

Two other Britons, presented by the separatist authorities of the Donetsk region as mercenaries, as well as a Moroccan, were sentenced to death in June in this self-proclaimed “republic” and recognized by Moscow.

London is at the forefront of support for Ukraine, in the wake of very degraded relations with Moscow for years. The British authorities announced in June the delivery to Ukraine of M270 multiple rocket launchers with a range of 80 kilometers, in addition to the American Himars systems of the same range sent by Washington.

kyiv said it received the weapons on Friday, which allow it to strike enemy logistics well behind the lines with precision and have begun to compensate for the firepower differential.

On the ground, the separatist authorities in Donetsk reported on Friday morning four people killed and 16 injured in 24 hours by Ukrainian bombardments in the area under their control.

Separatist forces also said they were continuing to advance and were in the process of taking full control of the town of Siversk, which came under attack after taking Lysychansk further east earlier this month.

“Russian forces are slowly advancing west after shelling and assaulting towards Siversk from Lysychansk, to open a path to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk,” according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Ukraine, for its part, launched a counter-offensive in the south several weeks ago to retake Kherson, the only regional capital captured by Moscow.

– “Where to Shock” –

On the diplomatic level, a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Bali, Indonesia, gave rise to a new confrontation between the West and Russia.

The big Western moneymakers accused Russia of having created with its war against Ukraine a “shock wave” in the world economy, responsible for the food and energy crisis which is hitting many countries.

Moscow’s best ally in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban agreed with the Russians, calling on EU leaders to reverse their sanctions policy, “a mistake” according to him.

But the European Union will pursue it and target Russian gold exports in its next set of sanctions, European Commissioner Maros Sefcovic told AFP on Friday.

“This will cut off another tap of funding for Putin’s war in Ukraine,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky said Friday evening that the United States would include additional aid for his country in their budget bill, in particular to develop “very significantly” its air capabilities. According to him, Washington has transferred 3 billion dollars to Ukrainian coffers over the past two weeks.