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Four killed, 53 injured in Russian attack on Zelensky’s hometown

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles slammed into an apartment complex and a university building in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih Monday, killing four people and wounding scores of others as the blasts trapped residents beneath rubble, Ukraine’s interior minister said.

One of the two missiles destroyed a section of the 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.

A 10-year-old girl was among those killed, officials said. Dnipro Gov. Serhii Lysak said 53 people were wounded in the morning attack, which also destroyed part of the four-story university building.

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

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

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Neither side’s claims could be independently verified.

Destroyed vehicles after the shelling that Russian officials in Donetsk said was conducted by Ukrainian forces, in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, July 31, 2023. (AP Photo)

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.

Russia has 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.”

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry Press Office, emergency services work at a scene after a missile hits a multi-story apartment building in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, Monday, July 31, 2023. (Ukrainian Interior Ministry Press Office via AP)

“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.”

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.

In Kryvyi Rih, which is the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, rescue crews searched Monday for people who were trapped in the wreckage of the two hit buildings. The Kremlin’s forces have occasionally targeted the city since they invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

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

An investigator examines a site of an explosion after the shelling that Russian officials in Donetsk said was conducted by Ukrainian forces, in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, July 31, 2023. (AP Photo)

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

“In recent days, the enemy has been stubbornly attacking cities, city centers, shelling civilian objects and housing,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media. “But this terror will not frighten us or break us.”

Russian shelling Monday also killed a 70-year-old woman in her home in a Kharkiv province village near Izyum, as well as a civilian in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, local 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.

Ukrainian officials didn’t acknowledge Sunday’s drone attacks in the Moscow region. In his nightly video address, Zelensky said: “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.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses a media conference at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 12, 2023. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

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

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