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Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian missiles and drones

Emergency personnel work at the scene following a drone attack in the town of Rzhyshchiv, Kyiv region, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president posted video Wednesday showing what he said was a Russian missile slamming into an apartment building in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least one person, after Moscow’s forces launched exploding drones before dawn that killed another seven at a student dormitory near Kyiv.

The video posted by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Telegram appeared to be from CCTV cameras that captured the moment a missile hit the nine-story residential block by a busy road.

Ukrainian media showed charred apartments on several stories of the affected buildings, with flames billowing from some of them. Two children were among the wounded, said Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatolii Kurtiev, adding that 25 needed hospital treatment, with three in critical condition.

“Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery,” Zelenskyy wrote to accompany the video. “Residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at.”

He appealed for countries to increase pressure on the Kremlin to give up its invasion of Ukraine.

The city is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest which has previously come under threat during the war.

Russia has denied targeting residential areas even though artillery and rocket strikes hit apartment buildings and civilian infrastructure on a daily basis

Earlier Wednesday, an overnight drone attack partially destroyed a high school and two dormitories in the city of Rzhyshchiv, south of the Ukrainian capital, officials said. It wasn’t clear how many people were in the dormitories at the time.

The body of a 40-year-old man was pulled from the rubble on a dormitory’s fifth floor, according to regional police chief Andrii Nebytov, adding that more than 20 people were hospitalized.

Just hours earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida left Kyiv after meeting Zelenskyy in a show of support for Ukraine. Earlier Wednesday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping left Moscow after meeting with President Vladimir Putin and discussing his peace proposal, which has been rejected by the West as a non-starter.

The drone barrage and other Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure drew a scathing response from Zelenskyy.

“Over 20 Iranian murderous drones, plus missiles, numerous shelling occasions, and that’s just in one last night of Russian terror,” he wrote in English on Twitter. “Every time someone tries to hear the word ‘peace’ in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes.”

Zaporizhzhia’s regional administration said two missiles struck the apartment block, saying Russia’s goal is “to scare the civilian population of the city of thousands.”

“It’s hell in Zaporizhzhia,” Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko wrote on Telegram, adding: “There aren’t any military facilities nearby.”

Vladimir Rogov, an official with the Moscow-appointed regional administration for the Russian-occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region, claimed the building was hit by a Ukrainian air defense missile that was launched to intercept a Russian missile. He didn’t cite offer any evidence to support his claim.

Russian officials have blamed Ukrainian air defenses for some of the deadliest strikes on apartments in the past, charging that the deployment of air defense systems in residential areas puts civilians at risk.

Ukrainian air defenses downed 16 of the 21 drones launched by Russia, the Ukraine General Staff said. Eight of them were shot down near the capital, according to the city’s military administration. Other drone attacks struck central-western Khmelnytskyi province.

Kishida called Russia’s invasion a “disgrace that undermines the foundations of the international legal order” and pledged to “continue to support Ukraine until peace is back on the beautiful Ukrainian lands.”

He said he had expressed the “unwavering determination of solidarity” of Japan and the Group of Seven countries to Ukraine during his talks with Zelenskyy.

Kishida’s visit was “very meaningful” for Japan’s support for Kyiv, Japan’s top government spokesman said.

“Through Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to Ukraine, Japan was able to show not only to other members of the G-7 but also the international society including the Global South (nations) its determination to defend the rules-based international society,” Hirokazu Matsuno said.

His trip stole some of the attention from the Moscow visit by Xi, who left Russia early Wednesday.

In a joint statement, Russia and China emphasized the need to “respect legitimate security concerns of all countries” to settle the conflict, echoing Moscow’s argument that it sent in troops to prevent the U.S. and its NATO allies from turning the country into an anti-Russian bulwark.

Also Wednesday, Zelenskyy visited military positions in the eastern Donetsk region and gave state awards to the defenders of Bakhmut, a devastated city that has become a symbol of Ukraine’s dogged resistance.

Ukraine’s Finance Ministry said it has agreed with the International Monetary Fund on a $15.6 billion loan package aimed at shoring up the country’s economy, which has been crippled by the invasion. Ukrainian officials hope the IMF deal will encourage their allies to provide financial support, too.