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Death toll rises from Russian drone strike on Ukrainian port city, as China’s envoy tours Moscow

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.

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

Oleh Kiper, the governor of the Odesa region, said on Telegram that rescue workers on Sunday morning retrieved the remains of a woman and her baby, who appeared “not even a year old.”

On Saturday, Ukrainian authorities reported that a months-old 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. Kiper, the local governor, said that rescue workers continue to comb through the site.

Russia’s defense ministry reported that 38 Ukrainian drones were intercepted overnight into Sunday over the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed from Kyiv in 2014. A bridge that connects Crimea to Russian territory was closed to traffic for about two hours in the early hours.

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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