Russia hits Ukraine with missiles, drones as 'dear friend' Xi departs
Russia blasted an apartment block in Ukraine with missiles on Wednesday and swarmed cities with drone attacks overnight, in a display of force as President Vladimir Putin bid farewell to his visiting "dear friend" and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Firefighters battled a blaze in two adjacent residential buildings in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, where officials said at least one person was killed and 33 wounded by a twin missile strike.
In Rzhyshchiv, a riverside town south of Kyiv, at least eight people were killed and seven injured after a drone struck two dormitories and a college, regional police chief Andrii Nebytov said.
"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," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted, with security camera video showing one building exploding.
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.
"When I got out, there was destruction, smoke, people screaming, debris. Then the firefighters and rescuers came," said Ivan Nalyvaiko, 24.
During the night, sirens blared across the capital and parts of northern Ukraine, and the military said it had shot down 16 of 21 Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones.
Zelenskiy visited troops near the front line. His office released video of him handing out medals to soldiers, which 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 World War Two.
"It is painful to see the cities of Donbas ... to which Russia has brought terrible suffering and ruin," Zelenskiy 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 groups estimate rebuilding Ukraine will cost $411 billion - 2.6 times Ukraine's 2022 gross domestic product.
Hosting Xi in Moscow this week was Putin's grandest diplomatic gesture since he ordered the invasion of neighbour Ukraine 13 months ago and became a pariah in the West. The two men referred to each other as "dear friend", promised economic cooperation, condemned the West and described relations as the best they have ever been.
Xi departed telling Putin: "Now there are changes that haven't happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes."
"I agree," Putin said.
But the public remarks were notably short of specifics, and during the visit Xi had almost nothing to say about the Ukraine war, beyond that China's position was "impartial".
The White House urged Beijing to pressure Russia to withdraw. Washington also criticised the timing of the trip, just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges.
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 recognise territorial "realities" after its claim to have annexed nearly a fifth of Ukraine.
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 ministry said.
Crimean naval base attacked by drones – governor
At least three naval drones were involved in an early morning attack on Russian warships stationed at the port of Sevastopol, local Governor Mikhail Razvozhaev has reported. The city hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and is occasionally targeted by Ukrainian forces.
The Russian Navy’s assets were not damaged in Wednesday’s raid, but the windows of several buildings near the coast were shattered by blast waves from the destroyed drones, the senior official wrote on social media. Russian air defenses were used to engage an aerial target during the incident, he added.
Despite sporadic attacks by Ukraine on the city of Sevastopol, located on the Crimean Peninsula, the use of naval drones, which can carry more explosives than their airborne equivalents, is a rare event.
The last major incident involving such weapons was reported by the Russian military in late October last year, when Kiev deployed seven unmanned watercraft and nine unmanned aircraft against ships in Sevastopol harbor. Ukrainian forces managed to damage a Natya-class minesweeper, the Defense Ministry said at the time.
The Russian military claimed the Ukrainian operation was conducted with the help of British advisers and targeted vessels that were providing safe passage for ships under a UN-mediated Black Sea grain deal. The Defense Ministry briefly suspended participation in the scheme as a result.
The grain deal, which allows Ukraine to export agricultural produce by sea, was extended for a second time last week. Moscow warned that the UN had 60 more days to deliver on the promise to have Western nations lift the restrictions hampering Russian grain and fertilizer trade, which it gave when the original agreement was signed.
** Risk of nuclear conflict at record-high over decades — MFA
The risk of a nuclear conflict is now at a record-high over decades, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said during a discussion entitled A World without START: What’s Next? on the platform of the Valdai discussion club.
"I would not like to indulge in a discussion whether the probability of a nuclear conflict is high today, but in any case it is higher than anything that we have seen over the past decades, let's put it this way," he said.
Ryabkov stressed that Moscow does not depart "from the key provisions, doctrinal and political ones" confirming its commitment to the idea the world must be safe and free from the nuclear threat.
"But, of course, non-nuclear states, especially those which are not affiliated with US-led groups and are not inclined to assent to Washington on all issues, these states could assert state their stance more loudly to call to order politicians in the Western capitals, including Washington, who have absolutely lost their sense of reality," Ryabkov added.
** Russian forces wipe out two Ukrainian arms hangars at airfield near Odessa
Russian forces destroyed two Ukrainian hangars storing armaments and military equipment at an airfield near Odessa over the past day during the special military operation in Ukraine, Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov reported on Wednesday.
"On the territory of the Shkolny airfield near the city of Odessa, two hangars storing armaments and military equipment of the Ukrainian army were struck," the spokesman said.
In addition, Russian forces struck 83 Ukrainian artillery units at firing positions, manpower and military hardware in 112 areas, the general specified.
Battles in Kupyansk direction
Russian forces struck Ukrainian manpower in the Kupyansk area, eliminating over 50 enemy troops and an ammunition depot in the past day, Konashenkov reported.
"In the Kupyansk direction, artillery of the western battlegroup struck the enemy units in areas near the settlements of Dvurechnaya, Sinkovka, Olshana and Kotlyarovka in the Kharkov Region," the spokesman said.
The strikes eliminated enemy manpower and equipment, the general said.
"Over 50 Ukrainian personnel, two armored combat vehicles, two motor vehicles and a 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer were destroyed," he said.
In addition, Russian forces obliterated an ammunition depot of the Ukrainian army’s 103rd territorial defense brigade near the settlement of Kislovka in the Kharkov Region, Konashenkov reported.
Battles in Krasny Liman direction
Russian combat aircraft, artillery and heavy flamethrower systems struck Ukrainian manpower and equipment in the Krasny Liman area, destroying over 90 enemy troops in the past day, he said.
"In the Krasny Liman direction, operational/tactical aircraft, artillery and heavy flamethrower systems of the battlegroup Center struck the Ukrainian manpower and equipment in areas near the settlements of Chervonaya Dibrova, Ploshchanka and Kuzmino in the Lugansk People’s Republic," the spokesman said.
The strikes eliminated over 90 Ukrainian personnel, two armored combat vehicles, three pickup trucks, a Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer and a D-30 howitzer in that area in the past 24 hours, the general specified.
Battles in Donetsk direction
Russian forces destroyed over 300 Ukrainian troops in their advance in the Donetsk area over the past day, Konashenkov reported.
"In the Donetsk direction, over 300 Ukrainian personnel, three armored combat vehicles, three motor vehicles, an Akatsiya self-propelled artillery gun and a D-20 howitzer were destroyed in the past 24 hours as a result of active operations by units of the southern battlegroup, air strikes, artillery and heavy flamethrower fire," the spokesman said.
Battles in southern Donetsk, Zaporozhye directions
Russian forces destroyed roughly 40 Ukrainian troops, a US-made M777 artillery gun and a fuel depot in the southern Donetsk and Zaporozhye areas over the past day, Konashenkov reported.
In the southern Donetsk and Zaporozhye directions, operational/tactical aircraft and artillery of the battlegroup East struck the Ukrainian army units near the settlements of Ugledar in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Zaliznichnoye, Malaya Tokmachka and Maliye Shcherbaki in the Zaporozhye Region, the spokesman said.
"The enemy’s losses in the past 24 hours amounted to 40 Ukrainian personnel, three motor vehicles and a US-made M777 artillery system. In addition, a depot storing fuel for military hardware of the Ukrainian army’s 102nd territorial defense brigade was obliterated near the community of Zaliznichnoye in the Zaporozhye Region," the general said.
Battles in Kherson direction
Russian forces destroyed roughly 20 Ukrainian troops and a Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer in the Kherson area over the past day, Konashenkov reported.
"In the Kherson direction, as many as 20 Ukrainian personnel, two motor vehicles and also a Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer were destroyed as a result of damage inflicted on the enemy by firepower," the spokesman said.
Russia’s Aerospace Forces down Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter in Kharkov Region
Russian combat aircraft shot down a Ukrainian Air Force Mi-8 helicopter in the Kharkov Region over the past day, Konashenkov reported.
"Fighter aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces shot down a Ukrainian Air Force Mi-8 helicopter near the settlement of Maliye Krynki in the Kharkov Region," the spokesman said.
Russian air defenses down three US-made HIMARS rockets
Russian air defense forces shot down 26 Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles and three rockets of the US-made HIMARS multiple launch rocket system over the past day, Konashenkov reported.
"In the past 24 hours, air defense capabilities destroyed 26 unmanned aerial vehicles near the settlements of Krivosheyevka, Nikolayevka, Rubezhnoye and Kremennaya in the Lugansk People’s Republic, Peski and Novoandreyevka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, Vasilyevka, Stepovoye and Novopokrovka in the Zaporozhye Region, and also Golaya Pristan and Krynki in the Kherson Region. In addition, they shot down three rockets of the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system," the spokesman said.
In all, the Russian Armed Forces have destroyed 403 Ukrainian combat aircraft, 224 helicopters, 3,528 unmanned aerial vehicles, 414 surface-to-air missile systems, 8,370 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 1,070 multiple rocket launchers, 4,410 field artillery guns and mortars and 9,052 special military motor vehicles since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, Konashenkov reported.