A Russian missile strike destroyed a popular dinnertime pizzeria in the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk on Tuesday night, killing at least four people and injuring more than 40 others, Ukrainian officials say .
There was a large crowd inside the restaurant in downtown Kramatorsk when the missile struck on Tuesday, regional military administration chief Pavlo Kyrylenko told state television.
A 17-year-old girl was among the dead and at least 42 people were injured, according to the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office said in a press release. The attorney general warned three hours after the attack that it was possible more people were trapped under the rubble.
Videos shot at the scene showed a fire burning in a heavily damaged building as black smoke billowed overhead. Lifeguards cared for the wounded in the debris-strewn streets as the sirens sounded. It took firefighters nearly three hours to extinguish the blaze, according to Ukrainian emergency services said.
Reporters at the scene identified the restaurant that was hit as Ria Lounge, a longtime popular haunt in Kramatorsk known to many as Ria Pizza. The restaurant, which was on the ground floor, closed after the invasion began in February last year, but reopened several months later.
With its covered outdoor seating, Ria Lounge is especially popular in the summer. Ukrainian soldiers stationed nearby, some fresh from the front, are frequent visitors, as are locals, foreign journalists and aid workers.
Anastasia Taylor-Lind, a British freelance photographer who dined inside, said the restaurant got “quite busy” around 7.30pm on Tuesday evening. The kitchen was to close about half an hour later.
A young woman with a baby in a pushchair had just sat down next to where Ms Taylor-Lind was eating pizza with a colleague when she said she heard a ‘roar’ sound and ‘immediately’ knew that it was an approaching missile. Then there was an explosion.
“I felt hot air and the sound of breaking glass and flying debris, rattling and tinkering,” she said. “It went on and on and on.”
Ms Taylor-Lind said she and her colleague slipped from their chairs and went to the basement, fearing another strike. Both were bleeding. A wait staff member washed the blood from her face, Ms Taylor-Lind said, and also helped her colleague.
When they emerged from the basement, the restaurant was a sea of shattered glass and tangled metal, she said. The ambulances had not yet arrived.
“Everyone who was in the restaurant who wasn’t injured was helping people who were,” she said.
Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, is far enough from the frontline that life seems relatively normal most of the time. But air raid sirens are common, and the sounds of distant artillery are occasionally heard.
The city had a pre-war population of around 150,000 people and was once one of the industrial centers of the Donbass region. Many people fled in the first months of the full-scale invasion. Since last year, some residents have started to return.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine noted that the missile strike came on the anniversary of the attack on a shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk, when 22 people were killed. He said the Russians used S-300 missiles in Kramatorsk, a long-range surface-to-air missile that Moscow fired at ground targets.