Funeral held for people killed in Russian market attack, missile strikes continue as Blinken visits Ukraine

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KOSTIANTYNIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — Victims of a deadly Russian missile attack that struck a busy market in eastern Ukraine were buried Thursday, as Moscow kept up its assault on Ukraine’s grain export infrastructure, hitting a Ukrainian port for the fourth time in five days.

At least 17 people were killed and 32 wounded in Wednesday’s attack on the market in Kostiantynivka, in Ukraine’s Donestsk region — another grim reminder of the war’s civilian toll.

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Among the victims were Mykola and Natalia Shyrai, whose bodies were laid to rest in a village outside Kostiantynivka on Thursday. The married couple, in their 50s, had been selling flowers in the market when they were killed in the blast. Dozens of people from the small settlement arrived to say their final farewells as caskets covered white cloth were shut and lowered.

The attack the previous day had turned an outdoor market into a fiery, blackened ruin, and overshadowed a two-day visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken aimed at assessing Ukraine’s 3-month-old counteroffensive and signaling continued U.S. support for the fight.

While touring northern Ukraine on Thursday, Blinken said the death and destruction in Kostiantynivka was “what Ukrainians are living with every day.”

Hours earlier, Russia attacked the Ukrainian port city of Izmail for the fourth time in five days, Ukrainian officials said Thursday, in what has become a sustained campaign to target Ukraine’s ability to export grain.

The Danube River port area was attacked with Shahed drones aiming at civilian and port infrastructure, Odesa region Gov. Oleh Kiper said. A truck driver was wounded and grain silos were damaged, he said.

Ukrainian war crimes prosecutors inspected the wreckage at the scene close to port infrastructure on Thursday, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office.

The Ukrainian military said it shot down 25 out of 33 drones launched by Russia overnight, most of them at the Odesa region, Ukraine’s agriculture export hub, as well as the northern Sumy region.

Russia has escalated attacks on Ukraine’s grain export infrastructure since mid-July, when it exited a U.N.-backed deal that had allowed for the safe shipping of Ukrainian grain during the war.

The attack in Izmail came one day after the attack in Kostiantynivka. The area, just 15-20 kilometers (about 10-to-12 miles) from the front line, has been shelled by Russia several times, and the sounds of the not-so-distant war boom throughout the day. The tail of a rocket from a cluster munition was lodged in the middle of the road that leads to the cemetery where the funerals were held.

Blinken visited a school in the village of Yahidne where hundreds of residents were imprisoned when Russian forces occupied the village at the start of the full-scale invasion. Blinken said Russian atrocities continue. “Just yesterday, we saw the bombing of a market, 17 people or more killed,” he said. “For what?”

Earlier, Blinken visited a Kyiv region facility of the State Border Guards of Ukraine and went to see a demining team working to clear unexploded ordnance from a 45,000-square-meter (10-acre) site that included a farm.

Blinken announced $90.5 million in demining assistance as part of a package of U.S. military and humanitarian aid totaling over $1 billion on Wednesday.

While Ukraine’s ports have come under attack, drone attacks on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2013, and in Russia itself also have become increasingly common in recent months. In recent weeks, drones have repeatedly targeted Moscow, with some hitting buildings in the city center, while others have been shot down on the outskirts of the city.

Early Thursday, five drones were shot down from over three regions overnight, including one attempting to strike Moscow, officials said. There were no reports of casualties.

Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed the overnight attacks in Russia on Ukraine, which does not take credit for strikes inside Russia. One drone targeted Moscow, but was shot down southeast of the city without causing any damage or injuries, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

Two more drones were shot down over the southern region of Rostov, which borders Ukraine, said regional Gov. Vasily Golubev. The debris fell in the center of Rostov-on-Don, the region’s capital, damaging several cars and shattering windows in three buildings, Golubev said. One person sought medical assistance.

Two other drones were shot down over the Bryansk region, which also borders Ukraine, Gov. Alexander Bogomaz said. Drone debris damaged a railway station and several cars, he said.

Kullab reported from Kyiv.

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