Death Toll Rises From Russian Drone Strike on Ukrainian Port City, as China’s Envoy Tours Moscow

by Braxton Taylor

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The death toll rose to 10 on Sunday from a Russian drone strike that destroyed an apartment block in Ukraine’s southern port city of Odesa the previous day when a local official reported that the body of a third child was pulled from the rubble, along with that of the child’s mother.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Western allies to boost Ukraine’s air defenses in the wake of the deadly attack.

Ukraine’s interior ministry on Sunday reported that rescue workers that morning retrieved the remains of a woman and infant.

“The mother tried to cover the 8-month-old child with her own (body). She tried to save them. They were found in a firm embrace,” said a Telegram post published on the ministry’s official channel.

On Saturday, Ukrainian authorities reported that another young baby was among those killed after falling debris from an Iranian-made drone hit the apartment building — one of eight Russian drones reported by officials. Later that day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that a second child had also died, and called on Kyiv’s Western partners to send more air defense systems.

“Tymofiy was 4 months old. Mark was about to turn 3 years old. My condolences to all of their close ones,” Zelenskyy wrote in English on X, formerly known as Twitter. He added that a 3-year-old girl and seven other people were injured in the attack.

“Delays in the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, as well as air defense to protect our people, unfortunately result in such losses. … Ukraine has never requested anything more than what is necessary to protect lives,” Zelenskyy wrote.

Four more people may be trapped in the rubble in Odesa, the local branch of Ukraine’s main emergency service said in a Facebook update Sunday. Oleh Kiper, the local governor, said that rescue workers continue to comb through the site, and regional authorities announced a day of mourning for the victims.


In Russian-occupied Crimea, loud explosions were heard near an oil depot in the early hours of Sunday, according to a local pro-Kyiv Telegram news channel, while Kremlin-installed officials in the territory said that a nearby stretch of highway was closed to traffic for over eight hours.

Videos shared with pro-Ukrainian channel Crimean Wind showed explosions lighting up the night sky, followed by loud booms. The channel said they were taken by local residents near Feodosia — a coastal town in northeastern Crimea. It was not immediately possible to verify the circumstances in which the videos were shot.

An anti-Russian, Crimean Tatar-led underground group claimed later that day that the blasts destroyed a pipeline, causing “colossal” damage.

The group, Atesh — which means “fire” in Crimean Tatar — did not directly claim responsibility for the strike, and said it had learned about its consequences from informers among Russian-appointed officials. Authorities in Kyiv did not immediately acknowledge or comment on the claims.

Traffic was halted early on Sunday along a four-lane Russian federal highway near Feodosia, according to an adviser to Crimea’s Kremlin-installed leader. The Telegram post by Oleg Kryuchkov did not give the reasons for the move. More than eight hours later, Crimea’s local transport minister reported that traffic had partially resumed. A bridge that connects Crimea to Russian territory was also closed to traffic for about two hours early on Sunday morning.

Russia’s defense ministry on Sunday did not comment on the reports but claimed that 38 Ukrainian drones were intercepted overnight into Sunday over the peninsula.


In Moscow, China’s special envoy on Ukraine held talks on Saturday evening with senior Russian diplomats in the first leg of a European trip that will also take him to Brussels, Poland, Germany and France, Chinese and Russian state media reported.

In a readout published on Sunday morning, China’s foreign ministry said that Special Representative Li Hui and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin agreed that negotiations are the only way to end the fighting in Ukraine.

Li’s trip, the second since last May, comes as Kyiv seeks Beijing’s participation in peace talks that Switzerland is trying to organize this spring. China claims it’s neutral in Russia’s war on Ukraine but maintains close ties with Moscow, with frequent state visits and joint military drills between the two nations.

“We will continue to play our unique role, carry out shuttle diplomacy, build consensus among all sides and contribute China’s wisdom to promote the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning said Wednesday.

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