Ukraine will ‘respond to every blow’ after deadly Russian attacks

Ukraine’s president says Russian attacks, which killed at least nine people, will not go unanswered.

A security personnel stands guard at a site of a building heavily damaged by Russian drone strikes
An officer stands guard at a site of a building heavily damaged by Russian drone attacks in the town of Rzhyshchiv, in the Kyiv region, Ukraine March 22, 2023. [REUTERS/Alina Yarysh]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his country will “respond to every blow” after Russian attacks killed at least eight people in the Kyiv region and one person in the city of Zaporizhzhia.

“We will certainly respond to every blow of the occupier on our cities,” Zelenskyy said on Wednesday. “All Russian strikes will receive a military, political and legal response.”

Seven people were also injured when two dormitories and a college were hit in a series of early-morning drone attacks on the town of Rzhyshchiv, 64 km (40 miles) south of the capital Kyiv, emergency services said on Facebook.

One person was rescued from the site and four people were believed trapped under rubble. Rescue operations were continuing on Wednesday night.

Regional police chief Andrii Nebytov said an ambulance driver who went to the scene was among the dead.

“The majority of people [at the dormitories] were saved because they … were in bomb shelters,” Nebytov said.

Hours later, two residential buildings were damaged in a missile attack on the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. One person was killed and 33 were taken to hospital, officials said.

Zelenskyy described the attack on Zaporizhzhia as an act of “bestial savagery”. He added that Wednesday’s attacks showed Moscow was not interested in peace.

During the night, sirens blared across the capital and swathes of northern Ukraine. The military said it had shot down 16 of 21 Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones.

Visit to Bakhmut

The attacks on Wednesday came as Zelenskyy visited troops near the front line. His office released a video of him handing out medals to soldiers, which it said was filmed near Bakhmut, the eastern city where Ukrainian forces are engaging in Europe’s deadliest infantry battle since World War II.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and a soldier pose for a photo after an awarding ceremony at a position near Bakhmut
Zelenskyy was handing out medals to soldiers near Bakhmut [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP]

Russia’s only notable recent gains have been around Bakhmut. Kyiv decided in recent weeks not to withdraw from the area, saying its defenders were inflicting enough losses on the Russian attackers to justify holding out.

In an intelligence update, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry 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 army 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 UK ministry added.

Xi departs Moscow

Russia’s attacks also coincided with President Vladimir Putin bidding farewell to his visiting “dear friend”, Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Hosting Xi in Moscow this week was Putin’s grandest diplomatic gesture since he launched the war on Ukraine a year ago and became a pariah in the West.

Washington criticised the timing of the trip, just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges.

Beijing has proposed a peace plan for Ukraine, which the West largely dismisses as vague at best and at worst a ploy to buy time for Putin to regroup his forces.

In an apparent reference to the Chinese president’s visit to the Russian capital, Zelenskyy tweeted: “Every time someone tries to hear the word ‘peace’ in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies