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Russia strikes civilian targets again, and officials from the European Union visit Kyiv

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles hit residential areas of an eastern Ukrainian city Thursday for the second time in 24 hours, while top European Union officials held talks with the government in Kyiv as the war with Russia. She is getting closer to her one year old milestone.

The latest strikes in Kramatorsk came as rescue teams searched for survivors under the rubble of an apartment building that was hit Wednesday night by a Russian missile, killing at least three people and wounding 21 others. Ukraine’s presidential office said it believed at least one other victim had fallen under the rubble.

“Kramatorsk was shattered again by explosions – the Russians made two more missile attacks,” wrote the region’s governor, Pavlo Kirilenko, in a post on Telegram.

He said that at least five civilians were wounded in the recent strikes, which targeted residential buildings, a children’s clinic and a school in the heart of the city. Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko urged residents to stay in shelters.

Kramatorsk is a major center of the Ukrainian army in the east.

No other details of Thursday’s attack were immediately available.

Russia frequently bombed residential buildings during the war, causing civilian casualties, although the Kremlin denied targeting residential buildings.

The presidential office said that Russian bombing across Ukraine in the past 24 hours has killed at least eight civilians and wounded 29 others. Besides the casualties in Kramatorsk, four of them were killed when a Russian mortar hit a basement where they were sheltering in the northeastern Chernihiv region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky He met with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen ahead of what officials described as a summit on Friday. The last such summit was held in Kyiv in October 2021 – a few months before the start of the war on February 24, 2022.

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Von der Leyen praised Ukraine’s wartime “brilliant application” to join the European Union, although Brussels officials noted that Ukraine’s accession to the 27-nation bloc remains a long way off.

Von der Leyen said that before possible membership, the Commission proposes that Kyiv join major European programs — this would give Ukraine advantages close to those of EU membership in many areas.

She said EU aid to Ukraine has reached 50 billion euros ($55 billion) since the start of the Russian war.

She said that the European Union plans to adopt the tenth package of sanctions again on Russia before February 24. Von der Leyen also announced that the International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression in Ukraine would be established in The Hague to coordinate the collection of evidence of war crimes.

Von der Leyen, on her fourth visit to Kyiv since the Russian invasion, added that she was “heartened” by Ukraine’s anti-corruption drive. Ending endemic corruption is a prerequisite for joining the European Union.

On Wednesday, Zelensky targeted corrupt officials For the second time in a week. Many high-ranking officials have been fired.

Zelensky was elected in 2019 on an anti-corruption and anti-establishment platform in a country long in the grip of graft.

The latest corruption allegations come as Western allies funnel billions of dollars into helping Kyiv fight Moscow’s forces, and as Ukraine’s government introduces reforms so it can join the European Union.

The Ukrainian government is keen to get more Western military aid, in addition to the tanks that were pledged last weekAs the warring parties are expected to launch new attacks once the winter ends. Kyiv is now requesting combat aircraft.

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Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told French BFM television that Kyiv expects Russia to “try to do something” on the February 24 anniversary. He stressed his government’s urgency to obtain weapons without delay.

“We tell our partners that we also need to be ready as quickly as possible,” he said in an interview late Wednesday.

US President Joe Biden has ruled out providing F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday during a visit to the Philippines The focus of US aid is to increase Ukraine’s military capabilities by sending artillery, armor, air defense, and training of Ukrainian forces.

Austin said the United States is “focused on providing Ukraine with the capability it needs to be effective in its upcoming spring counteroffensive.”

“And so we are doing everything we can to provide them with the capabilities that they need now to be effective on the battlefield,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the strategy would backfire, by urging Moscow to ensure potential Russian targets were out of range.

“The longer the range of weapons that the Kyiv regime has been supplied with, the more we need to remove them from the regions that are part of our country,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state media.

He said Moscow would like to see an end to the war, but noted that the length of the conflict was less important than the desired outcome: the protection of Russian lands and “people who want to remain part of Russian culture,” reiterating Moscow’s stated goal of defending Russian speakers. in Ukraine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin I drew national pride at a ceremony Marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in World War Two, he sought to shore up support at home for the fight in Ukraine, where Kremlin forces have suffered some embarrassing setbacks in recent months.

“The strength of the defenders of Stalingrad is the most important moral beacon for Russian soldiers,” he said in Volgograd, as it was renamed Stalingrad in 1961. “All this characterizes Russia and makes us strong and confident in ourselves, the rightness of our cause and our victory.”

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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