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Residents of the Rzhyshchiv dorm look at the damage to the building of the vocational school in Rzhyshchiv Ukraine, on March 22.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail

Russia blasted an apartment block in Ukraine with missiles on Wednesday and swarmed cities with drone attacks overnight, in a display of force as President Vladimir Putin bid farewell to his visiting “dear friend” and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Firefighters battled a blaze in two adjacent residential buildings in Zaporizhzhia, where officials said at least one person was killed and 33 wounded by a twin missile strike.

In Rzhyshchiv, a riverside town south of Kyiv, at least six people were killed after a drone struck two college dormitories, regional police chief Andrii Nebytov said.

“Right now, residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted, with security camera video showing one building exploding.

“This must not become ‘just another day’ in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world. The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives.”

A playground and a car park at the scene were littered with glass, debris and wrecked cars. Emergency workers carried out the wounded or escorted those who could walk.

Putin props up China’s proposal for peace in Ukraine during state visit, despite lack of details

An elderly woman with scratches on her face sat alone on a bench, wiping tears and whispering prayers.

“When I got out, there was destruction, smoke, people screaming, debris. Then the firefighters and rescuers came,” said Ivan Nalyvaiko, 24.

During the night, sirens blared across the capital and swathes of northern Ukraine, and the military said it had shot down 16 of 21 Iranian-made Shahed suicide drones.

In an apparent reference to the Chinese president’s visit to the Russian capital, Mr. Zelensky tweeted: “Every time someone tries to hear the word ‘peace’ in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes.”

Mr. Zelensky visited troops near the front line. His office released video of him handing out medals to soldiers, which it said was filmed near Bakhmut, the eastern city where Ukrainian forces are mounting a defence in what has become Europe’s deadliest infantry battle since the Second World War.

International bodies estimate rebuilding Ukraine will cost US$411-billion – 2.6 times Ukraine’s 2022 gross domestic product.

Playing host to Mr. Xi in Moscow this week was Mr. Putin’s grandest diplomatic gesture since he launched the war a year ago and became a pariah in the West. The two men referred to each other as “dear friend,” promised economic co-operation, condemned the West and described relations as the best they have ever been.

Mr. Xi departed telling Mr. Putin: “Now there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.”

“I agree,” Mr. Putin said, to which Mr. Xi responded: “Take care of yourself, dear friend, please.”

But the public remarks were notably short of specifics, and during the visit Mr. Xi had almost nothing to say about the Ukraine war, beyond that China’s position was “impartial.”

The White House urged Beijing to pressure Russia to withdraw. Washington also criticized the timing of the trip, just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Putin on war-crimes charges.

China has proposed a peace plan for Ukraine which the West largely dismisses as vague at best, and at worst a ploy to buy time for Mr. Putin to regroup his forces.

Ukraine says there can be no peace unless Russia withdraws from occupied land. Moscow says Kyiv must recognize territorial “realities” after its claim to have annexed nearly a fifth of Ukraine.

After Ukraine recaptured territory throughout the second half of 2022, Moscow launched a massive winter offensive using hundreds of thousands of freshly called-up reservists and convicts recruited as mercenaries from jail.

Despite the bloodiest fighting of the war, which both sides describe as a meat grinder, the front line has barely moved for four months.

Russia’s only notable gains have been around Bakhmut, but Kyiv has decided in recent weeks not to withdraw there, saying its defenders were inflicting enough losses on the Russian attackers to justify holding out.

In an intelligence update, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said that while there was still a risk the Ukrainian garrison in Bakhmut could be surrounded, Russia’s assault on the city could be running out of steam.

A Ukrainian counterattack in recent days west of Bakhmut was likely to relieve pressure on Ukraine’s supply route, it added.

With Ukraine urging more support and more powerful weapons, the president of NATO alliance member Czech Republic said that Western zeal may wane over time, especially given the impending U.S. election next year.

“We have to take war fatigue into account and what it means for support from Western countries. This will decrease over time,” German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted Petr Pavel as saying in one of the first such warnings from an ally of Kyiv.

Britain rejected accusations from Moscow that providing Ukraine with ammunition made from depleted uranium created a risk of “nuclear collision.”

“There is no threat to Russia, this is purely about helping Ukraine defend itself,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said.

The shells Britain is supplying Ukraine are used by many militaries to penetrate armour owing to the metal’s high density.

Depleted uranium is a by-product of enriched uranium used in nuclear reactors and weapons. It is less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium, but campaigners want to limit its military use due to concerns about lasting risks around impact sites, where dust can get into people’s lungs and vital organs.