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Russian missile strikes on Kherson and in Kryvyi Rih kill at least 10

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russian missiles slammed into Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s native city of Kryvyi Rih and the southern city of Kherson on Monday, killing at least 10 people and injuring close to 100 — a barrage that came one day after three drones struck Moscow in the latest attack on the Russian capital.

Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the drone assault, which damaged the facades of two office buildings in a business district but did not result in any injuries. The third drone was intercepted southwest of Moscow, officials said.

Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility. However, in a video address later Sunday, Zelensky said, “Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia — to its symbolic centers and military bases.”

“This is an inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process,” Zelensky said. Since November, Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities have been subjected to relentless Russian airstrikes intended to destroy civilian infrastructure and Western-provided air defenses.

Early Monday morning, hours after Zelensky’s address, Russian forces launched two missiles at Kryvyi Rih, an industrial city about 275 miles southeast of Kyiv, killing six and injuring 75, officials said.

In a video address Monday, Zelensky said Russia fired Iskander ballistic missiles from occupied Crimea, which Moscow illegally invaded and annexed from Ukraine in 2014. One of the missiles ripped through five floors of a residential building, while the other destroyed a university building, Zelensky said.

“This proves again and again that for the safety of our cities, for the protection of the normal life of Ukrainians and our children, our military must have enough long-range weapons, enough means to defeat terrorists,” Zelensky said.

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The head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration said one of the dead was found trapped in the rubble of a destroyed laboratory at the university.

On Monday, two early-morning Russian strikes killed at least four people and wounded 17 in Kherson, a southern port city which Ukraine liberated last year after months of Russian occupation, the regional governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, said on Telegram. One victim was a utility worker.

With Moscow having reimposed a blockade on Ukraine grain in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian and Croatian foreign ministers agreed Monday on the “possibility” of using Croatian ports to export Ukrainian grain, after Russia terminated an agreement to allow safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports.

“We will now work on laying the most efficient routes to these ports and making the most of this opportunity,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. He did not provide further details or a timeline, however, and it was not clear how such an arrangement would work.

Meanwhile, Wagner mercenary group boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who last month staged a dramatic but short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, said Monday that the private military had suspended recruitment but that Wagner would continue to operate in Africa and Belarus.

“To avoid secrets and behind-the-scenes conversations, I inform you that the Wagner Group continues its activities in Africa, as well as in training centers in Belarus,” Prigozhin said in a voice message published on the Grey Zone Telegram channel, an outlet close to the group. “As long as we do not experience a shortage in personnel, we do not plan to” recruit further, he said.

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Prigozhin added that most Wagner fighters were “on vacation” after a long period of “very hard work,” and that a small number had signed contracts to become regular soldiers with Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

His comments seemed to provide further confirmation that Wagner and Russian President Vladimir Putin were adhering to a deal brokered by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to end the mutiny.

Under the agreement, Putin agreed to drop insurgency charges in exchange for Prigozhin calling off the rebellion. The Russian president said the mercenaries could either sign contracts with the Russian military to keep fighting in Ukraine, move to Belarus or go home.

A number of Wagner fighters have relocated to Belarus, to a camp about a dozen miles from the town of Osipovichi.

On the group’s plans, Prigozhin remained vague. “The future: We define our following tasks, the outline of which is drawn more and more clearly; these are tasks that will be performed in the name of the greatness of Russia,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to attend a Ukrainian-backed “peace” summit in Saudi Arabia this weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning. Russia, however, will not attend the conference.

Saudi Arabia and Ukraine have invited 30 countries to participate in the summit in Jeddah, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. They hope to win the support of neutral countries such as India and Brazil.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would monitor the meeting. “It remains to be seen what goals will be set and what, in fact, the organizers plan to talk about,” Peskov said during a daily briefing for reporters.

The summit will be the latest multilateral talk called by Ukraine to try to increase international support for a 10-point peace plan proposed by Zelensky in December, which called for full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of all occupying Russian troops.

“We would be immensely pleased if the West, East, South, and North work together in this format toward restoring the global security system,” Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, posted on Twitter. “Meanwhile, this forum is for responsible states that uphold international law and the U.N. Charter. Therefore, Russia will not be there.”

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said the meeting in Saudi Arabia could be useful by helping the West realize that Zelensky’s plan was doomed to fail.

“A lot of different initiatives have been proposed now,” Zakharova said. “We’re in touch with our partners. As concerns the event that will be held by Saudi Arabia, if it helps the West realize the Zelensky plan’s complete futility, then it won’t be useless,” Zakharova told journalists on Monday.

Ebel reported from London. Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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