Deadly spate of Russian missile, drone strikes hit residential structures in Ukraine

Russia blasted an apartment block in Ukraine with missiles on Wednesday and swarmed cities with drone attacks overnight in a display of force, as Russian President Vladimir Putin bid farewell to his visiting "dear friend" and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Twin missile strikes hit apartment block, drone hits 2 college dormitories

A missile-damaged building in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
A view of the damage after a Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Russia blasted an apartment block in Ukraine with missiles on Wednesday and swarmed cities with drone attacks overnight in a display of force, as Russian President Vladimir Putin bid farewell to his visiting "dear friend" and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Firefighters battled a blaze in two adjacent residential buildings in Zaporizhzhia, where officials said at least one person was killed and 33 wounded by twin missile strikes.

In Rzhyshchiv, a riverside town south of the Ukrainian capital, at least eight people were killed and seven injured after a drone struck two college dormitories, regional police Chief Andrii Nebytov said.

"Right now, residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter, with security camera video showing one building exploding.

"This must not become 'just another day' in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world. The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives."

'Destruction, smoke, people screaming'

A playground and a car park at the scene in Zaporizhzhia were littered with glass, debris and wrecked cars. Emergency workers carried out the wounded or escorted those who could walk.

An elderly woman with scratches on her face sat alone on a bench, wiping tears and whispering prayers.

Smoke rises from an apartment building after it was shelled.
Smoke is seen rising from an apartment building in Chasiv Yar, west of Bakhmut, Ukraine, after Russian shelling on Wednesday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

"When I got out, there was destruction, smoke, people screaming, debris. Then the firefighters and rescuers came," said resident Ivan Nalyvaiko, 24.

During the night, sirens blared across the capital Kyiv and swaths of northern Ukraine, and the military said it had shot down 16 of 21 Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones. Eight were shot down near the capital, according to the city's military administration. Other drones struck west-central Khmelnytskyi province.

Zelenskyy visited troops near the front line. His office released video of him handing out medals to soldiers that it said was filmed near Bakhmut, the eastern city where Ukrainian forces are mounting a defence in what has become Europe's deadliest infantry battle since the Second World War.

A police officer stands near a missile-damaged building.
A police officer stands guard at the scene of a drone attack in the town of Rzhyshchiv, Kyiv region, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)

"It is painful to see the cities of Donbas ... to which Russia has brought terrible suffering and ruin," Zelenskyy said in a nightly video address, referring to the larger eastern region around Bakhmut that Russia claims as its territory.

He cited nearly constant sounds of air raid sirens in the city of Kramatorsk and threats of shelling.

International bodies estimate that rebuilding Ukraine will cost $411 billion US — 2.6 times Ukraine's 2022 gross domestic product.

Also Wednesday, the Russian-backed administration in Sevastopol suspended ferry routes around the Crimean port city, shortly after its governor said air defences repelled a Ukrainian drone attack.

Little said about Ukraine

Hosting China's Xi Jinping in Moscow this week was Putin's grandest diplomatic gesture since he invaded Ukraine last February.

The two men referred to each other as "dear friend," promised economic co-operation, condemned the West and described relations as the best they have ever been.

The leaders of China and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are seen at a dinner in Moscow on Tuesday. (Pavel Byrkin/Sputnik/Kremlin/The Associated Press)

They "shared the view that this relationship has gone far beyond the bilateral scope and acquired critical importance for the global landscape and the future of humanity," said a statement released by China.

But the public remarks were notably short on specifics, and during the visit, Xi had almost nothing to say about the war in Ukraine, beyond that China's position was "impartial."

The White House urged Beijing to pressure Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. Washington also criticized the timing of the trip, just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges.

Ukrainian soldiers driving on a road.
Ukrainian soldiers head toward Bakhmut on Wednesday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

China has proposed a peace plan for Ukraine that the West largely dismisses as vague at best, and at worst a ploy to buy time for Putin to regroup his forces.

Ukraine says there can be no peace unless Russia withdraws from occupied land. Moscow says Kyiv must recognize territorial "realities" after its claim to have annexed nearly a fifth of Ukraine.

Grinding battle in Bakhmut

Russia's only notable gains have been around Bakhmut, but Kyiv has decided in recent weeks not to withdraw there, saying its defenders were inflicting enough losses on the Russian attackers to justify holding out.

In an intelligence update, Britain's Ministry of Defence said that while there was still a risk the Ukrainian garrison in Bakhmut could be surrounded, Russia's assault on the city could be running out of steam. Ukraine's military General Staff agreed, saying Russia's offensive potential in Bakhmut was declining.

A Ukrainian counterattack in recent days west of Bakhmut was likely to relieve pressure on Ukraine's supply route, the British Defence Ministry said.

With Ukraine urging more support and more powerful weapons, the president of the Czech Republic, a NATO alliance member, said that Western zeal may wane over time, especially given the impending U.S. presidential election next year.

"We have to take war fatigue into account and what it means for support from Western countries. This will decrease over time," German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted Petr Pavel as saying in one of the first such warnings from an ally of Kyiv.

A woman stands near a shell crater in Donetsk, Ukraine.
A woman is seen on Wednesday standing next to a shell crater in a Russian-controlled part of Donetsk, Ukraine. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Britain rejected accusations from Moscow that providing Ukraine with ammunition made from depleted uranium created a risk of "nuclear collision."

"There is no threat to Russia, this is purely about helping Ukraine defend itself," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

The shells Britain is supplying Ukraine are used by many militaries to penetrate armour due to the metal's high density.

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of enriched uranium used in nuclear reactors and weapons. It is less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium, but campaigners want to limit its military use due to concerns about lasting health risks around impact sites, where dust can get into people's lungs and vital organs.

With files from The Associated Press