Russian ballistic missile strikes kill at least 6 people in Zelenskyy’s hometown

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian ballistic missiles slammed into an apartment complex and a university building in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown Monday, killing six people and wounding 75 others as the blasts trapped residents beneath rubble, Ukrainian officials said.

One of the two missiles that hit the central city of Kryvyi Rihon destroyed part of an apartment building between the fourth and ninth floors, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said. Video showed black smoke billowing from corner units and burned out or damaged cars on a tree-lined street.

The dead included a 10-year-old girl and her mother, according to Zelenskyy. More than 350 people were involved in the rescue operation, he said in a Telegram post.

The morning attack also destroyed part of a four-story university building.

The strike on Zelenskyy’s hometown, which has been hit in the past, happened a day after the Ukrainian president warned that the fighting was drawing closer to Russian land.

“Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia — to its symbolic centers and military bases, and this is an inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process,” Zelenskyy said Sunday in his nightly video address.

It was not clear whether the missile strikes were in retaliation for his comments.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian artillery strike on the partially occupied Donetsk province killed two people and wounded six others in the regional capital, according to Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-installed leader of the illegally annexed province.

READ MORE: Moscow blames Kyiv for a missile attack in Russia as Kremlin battle for Ukrainian village

A bus was also hit as Ukrainian forces shelled the city of Donetsk multiple times Monday, Pushilin said.

Neither side’s claims could be independently verified.

A recent Ukrainian counteroffensive, deploying weaponry supplied by Kyiv’s Western allies and aimed at driving Russian forces out of occupied areas, intensified last week. At the same time, Ukraine has sought to take the war deep into Russia, reportedly using drones to hit targets as far away as Moscow.

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russia and Moscow-annexed territory, especially Crimea, have become more frequent. The latest strike, on Sunday, damaged two office buildings a few miles (kilometers) from the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials did not acknowledge the attack.

Russia tightened security in the aftermath of that attack, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, describing the assault as an “act of desperation.”

“The Kyiv regime is in a very, very difficult situation,” Peskov said, “as the counteroffensive is not working out as planned.”

“It’s obvious that the multibillion-dollar resources that have been transferred by NATO countries to the Kyiv regime are actually being spent inefficiently,” Peskov said.

“This raises big questions in Western capitals and great discomfort among taxpayers in Western countries.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, analysts say, is wagering that Western support for Kyiv will wane as the war drags on and costs mount.

Another Ukrainian drone targeted a district police department early Monday in Russia’s Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine, but there were no casualties, the local governor said.

WATCH: Inside Ukraine’s counteroffensive as forces step up grueling fight against Russia

Bombarding populated areas with missiles, artillery and drones has been a hallmark of Moscow’s military strategy throughout the war, and that approach has continued during the Ukrainian counteroffensive that started in June.

Russian officials insist they take aim only at legitimate military targets, but Ukraine and its supporters say mass civilian deaths during previous attacks are evidence of war crimes.

“In recent days, the enemy has been stubbornly attacking cities, city centers, shelling civilian objects and housing,” Zelenskyy said. “But this terror will not frighten us or break us.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Monday that his forces have increased the intensity of attacks on Ukrainian military facilities.

It was not immediately clear which military facilities he was referring to, as Russia’s recent missile strikes have hit civilian infrastructure.

In the southern city of Odesa, Russian strikes in recent weeks targeted port infrastructure and grain silos, after Moscow broke off an export agreement for Ukrainian grain. The Ukrainian foreign ministry estimated Monday that about 180,000 metric tons of grain have been destroyed by Russia in the past nine days.

Russian shelling Monday also killed four civilians and wounded 17 in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. A 70-year-old woman was killed by shelling in her home in a Kharkiv province village near Izyum, authorities said.

In eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, one person was reported killed and seven people were injured after Russia shelled 12 cities and villages, according to Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko.

In other developments Monday, China introduced restrictions on the export of long-range civilian drones. Authorities cited the war in Ukraine and concern that drones could be converted for military purposes.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government is friendly with Moscow, but says it’s neutral in the war. It has been stung by reports that both sides might be using Chinese-made drones for reconnaissance and possibly attacks.

Meanwhile, Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said Monday that his Wagner Group is not currently recruiting fighters.

In an audio message published on a Telegram channel associated with the Wagner chief, Prigozhin said the company had suspended recruitment as there is currently “no shortage of personnel.”

Prigozhin previously agreed with Western estimates that he lost more than 20,000 men in the long battle for the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

Prigozhin last month led a short-lived mutiny against Moscow, demanding a leadership change in the Russian military. In an attempt to control him, Russian authorities insisted that Wagner fighters can only return to Ukraine if they join Russia’s regular army.

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