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A Russian strike on a market in eastern Ukraine kills 17 and wounds dozens, officials say

A Russian strike on a market in eastern Ukraine kills 17 and wounds dozens, officials say

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Russian missile struck an outdoor market in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 17 people and wounding dozens, officials said. The deadly attack came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv and was expected to announce more than $1 billion in new American funding for Ukraine in the 18-month-old war.

Associated Press journalists at the site of the attack in the city of Kostiantynivka in the Donetsk region saw covered bodies on the ground and emergency workers extinguishing fires at market stalls, with blackened and mangled cars nearby.

Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko said 17 people were killed, and another 32 were wounded. The Defense Ministry said the market was hit by a ballistic missile.

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Twenty shops, power lines, an administrative building and the floor of an apartment building were damaged, according to the prosecutor general’s office.

The attack was another grim reminder of the war’s civilian toll. “A regular market. Shops. A pharmacy. People who did nothing wrong,” Zelenskyy said on his official Telegram channel.

“Those who know this place are well aware that it is a civilian area,” Zelenskyy said later at a news conference with visiting Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. “There aren’t any military units nearby. The strike was deliberate.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “these brutal Russian attacks underscored the importance of continuing to support the people of Ukraine.”

Blinken’s visit was aimed at assessing Ukraine’s 3-month-old counteroffensive and signaling continued U.S. backing as some Western allies express worries about Kyiv’s slow progress in driving out Russian forces, according to U.S. officials.

“We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs, not only to succeed in the counteroffensive but has what it needs for the long-term, to make sure that it has a strong deterrent,” Blinken said. “We’re also determined to continue to work with our partners as they build and rebuild a strong economy, strong democracy.”

Blinken was set to pledge more than $1 billion in new U.S. funding, a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the announcement before it was made.

The money would be for “a range” of investments, the official said, without elaborating.

Roughly $275 million will be military aid, including depleted uranium tank rounds that had been a subject of internal administration debate until Tuesday, according to another U.S. official.

About $175 million of the total will be in the form of weaponry to be provided from Pentagon stockpiles, the official said. Another $100 million will be in the form of grants to allow the Ukrainians to purchase additional arms and equipment, the official said, also on condition of anonymity.

In addition to the military assistance, Blinken is expected to announce nearly $805 million in non-arms-related aid for Ukraine, according to another administration official. That will include $300 million for law enforcement, $206 million in humanitarian aid, $203 million to combat corruption and $90.5 million for demining, the official said.

The package will also include an already-announced $5.4 million transfer to Ukraine of frozen Russian oligarch assets, according to the official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.

The trip was Blinken’s fourth to Ukraine since the war began, including one brief excursion over the Polish-Ukrainian border in March 2022, just a month after the Russian invasion. But it will be the first time America’s top diplomat spends the night in Kyiv since January 2022, before the invasion, in what U.S. officials called a signal of American support.

Blinken’s visit comes after some of Ukraine’s allies have privately expressed concern that Ukrainian troops may fail to reach their objectives.

While the U.S. has been concerned by some day-to-day battlefield setbacks, U.S. officials said, they are still generally encouraged by Ukraine’s handling of the military situation, particularly its air defense capabilities in knocking down Russian drones aimed at Kyiv.

Blinken aims to see how the counteroffensive is progressing and what kind of support is needed, including materials to break through Russian defenses with winter approaching. Air defense will also continue to be a priority, the official said.

Western analysts and military officials caution that the counteroffensive’s success is far from certain and that it could take years to rid Ukraine of entrenched, powerfully armed and skilled Russian troops.

Both sides will have to assess their supply shortages, with more battles of attrition likely over the winter. A long war could stretch deep into next year and beyond, according to experts.

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