Russian strikes on east Ukraine residential block kills at least 7

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Rescue workers combed through the rubble of damaged apartments in the city of Pokrovsk in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, a day after Russian strikes killed at least seven people.

Pokrovsk sits just 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the eastern frontline, where Moscow says it is gaining ground and repelling Ukrainian attacks.

Two missiles — launched 40 minutes apart — damaged residential buildings, a hotel, cafes, shops and administrative buildings on Monday, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk region’s military administration said.

AFP correspondents on the ground saw rescuers evacuating survivors from the rubble of a five-storey building, and carrying the wounded into ambulances.

Seven people were killed in the strike on Monday evening and 81 were wounded, including two children, Kyrylenko said.

Those killed included a high-ranking emergency official of Donetsk region, said Igor Klymenko, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs.

“We are resuming the demolition of rubble,” Klymenko said early Tuesday after the rescuers “were forced to suspend work for the night due to the high threat of repeated shelling.”

The attack struck a building with a pizzeria on the ground floor that is a popular dining spot for volunteers, military and journalists, an AFP photographer confirmed.

The building’s upper floors were damaged.

In late June, Russia struck the Ria Pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk, killing 13 and wounding dozens more.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Moscow had struck a residential building, and shared a video on social media of civilians helping wounded people and rescuers clearing rubble from a building that had lost its top floor.

The footage also showed a second building that appeared heavily damaged.

Pokrovsk had a pre-war population of around 60,000 people.

– Russia advances –

Also on Monday, Russia said it had recently advanced three kilometres towards Kupiansk in northeastern Ukraine around 150 kilometres north of Pokrovsk and a few dozen kilometres from the Russian border.

Kupiansk and its surroundings in the Kharkiv region were retaken by Ukrainian forces in September, but Moscow has renewed its assault on the area.

“Over the past three days, the advance of Russian troops… amounted to 11 kilometres along the front and more than three kilometres deep into the enemy’s defence,” Moscow’s defence ministry said.

It said that it had “improved” its standing along the front line and continued to repel Ukrainian counterattacks.

On Saturday, Russia struck a blood transfusion centre in Kruglyakivka — near Kupiansk — with a “guided air bomb”, killing at least two people and wounding four, Kyiv said.

Two more people in Kruglyakivka died Monday when Russia attacked with “four guided aerial bombs”, according to Oleg Synegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region.

In mid-July, Ukraine said that it was in a “defensive position” in the Kupiansk area as the Russian army launched an offensive there.

Ukraine began its long-awaited counteroffensive in June, but has made modest advances in the face of stiff resistance from Russian forces.

– Saudi talks –

On the diplomatic front, Ukraine said Monday it was “satisfied” after a peace summit held in Saudi Arabia, to which Moscow was not invited.

Representatives from around 40 countries including China, India, the United States and Ukraine took part in the weekend summit in Jeddah.

But the initiative was greeted with scorn by Moscow on Tuesday.

“We have become eyewitnesses of yet another unsuccessful attempt by the US administration to pass off their wishes for reality. There was no diplomatic success in Jeddah,” said Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, as quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti.

The diplomat said it was pointless to discuss the crisis in Ukraine without Russia’s participation.

“Does anyone still not understand that in such a situation it is impossible to achieve a concrete result?” he said.

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