Nine dead after Russian missile hits restaurant

Published June 29, 2023
Three children were among the dead at the Ria Pizza restaurant, while at least 56 people were injured in the attack. — AFP
Three children were among the dead at the Ria Pizza restaurant, while at least 56 people were injured in the attack. — AFP

KRAMATORSK: The death toll from a Russian missile strike on a restaurant in eastern Ukraine rose to nine on Wednesday, while the Kremlin said it only hits targets that are somehow “linked” to the military.

Three children were among the dead at the Ria Pizza restaurant, while at least 56 people were injured in the attack.

The eatery is popular with both soldiers and journalists in the town of Kramatorsk, one of the largest still under Ukrainian control in the east.

“Search and rescue operations and debris removal are ongoing,” Ukraine’s state emergency service said on social media.

“The bodies of nine dead people — including three children — were retrieved from under the rubble,” it said.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Strikes are only carried out on objects that are in one way or another linked to military infrastructure.”

Days after Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted rebellion, widely seen as the biggest threat to Kremlin authority in decades, Kyiv said the mutiny’s influence on fighting was minimal.

“Unfortunately, Prig­ozhin gave up too quickly. So there was no time for this demoralising effect to penetrate Russian tren­ches,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN in a video published on Wednesday.

As Belarus welcomed Prigozhin into exile on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin moved to shore up his authority by thanking regular troops for averting a civil war.

But as Moscow announced preparations to disarm Wagner fighters, Putin’s arch-foe, jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, launched a stinging attack on the president in his first comments since the aborted mutiny by the paramilitaries.

“There is no bigger threat to Russia than Putin’s regime,” Navalny said on social media.

‘Stopped civil war’

Putin’s supporters, however, insisted that his rule was not weakened by the revolt.

Asked whether Putin’s power was diminished by the sight of Wagner’s rebel mercenaries seizing a military HQ, advancing on Moscow and shooting down military aircraft along the way, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused political commentators of exaggerating, adding that: “We don’t agree.” Putin himself attempted to portray the dramatic events at the weekend as a victory for the Russian army.

“You de facto stopped civil war,” Putin told troops from the defence ministry, National Guard, FSB security service and interior ministry gathered in a Kremlin courtyard to hold a minute’s silence for airmen slain by Wagner.

Meanwhile, the United States announced a new $500 million tranche of arms to bolster Ukraine’s mounting counteroffensive, including armoured vehicles, precision munitions and mine-clearing equipment.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2023

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