'Bestial savagery': Russian attacks kill 9 civilians, draw outrage; Ukraine to get $16B in IMF aid. Updates

At least nine Ukrainian civilians were killed Wednesday -- eight of them in or around a high school student dormitory near Kyiv -- as Russia increased its drone and missile attacks on the final day of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's self-described mission of peace to Moscow.

The renewed violence in areas away from the battlefield evoked outrage and undermined the Kremlin's efforts to portray itself as willing to negotiate a solution to a war about to complete its 13th month.

Besides the eight fatalities caused by the assault of exploding drones in the river town of Rzhyshchiv, more than 20 people were hospitalized with injuries, regional police Chief Andrii Nebytov said.

"Over 20 Iranian murderous drones, plus missiles, numerous shelling occasions, and that's just in one last night of Russian terror against Ukraine," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on social media. "Every time someone tries to hear the word 'peace' in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes."

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson also noted the violent turn of events "just one day after Russia called for peace.''

“What Russia is doing is horrific,'' she said, "and we are committed to continuing to help Ukraine defend itself against this Russian aggression.”

Zelenskyy also posted video on social media of what he said was a nine-story residential building aflame in Zaporizhzhia after Russia shelled it "with bestial savagery.” At least one person was killed and 33 were wounded, according to officials.

"The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives," Zelenskyy wrote. Gov. Yurii Malashko said the attack hit two residential buildings, killing at least one person and injuring 33.


►Citing the U.S.'s "hostile course'' toward his country, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the likelihood of nuclear conflict between the two powers "is higher than anything we have had for the past few decades.''

►The Ukraine military said its forces repelled 114 Russian attacks Tuesday, most in the Donetsk province of the Donbas region that has been the primary focus of the war. The attacks included dozens of air strikes and attempted drone offensives, Ukraine officials said in a Facebook post.

►Russia is treating Ukrainian children like “spoils of war" and allowing Russian parents to adopt them, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN. The court last week announced arrest warrants accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian children's rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova of illegally deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

►There are still about 10 children remaining in the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, who said efforts are being made to get them out. A mandatory evacuation order was issued March 7 for families with children in active combat areas like Bakhmut.

'OUTRAGED BY THE CRUELTY': Japanese leader Kishida makes surprise trip to Kyiv; China's Xi 'stands with a war criminal': Live updates

Emergency personnel work at the scene following a drone attack in the town of Rzhyshchiv, Kyiv region, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 22, 2023.
Emergency personnel work at the scene following a drone attack in the town of Rzhyshchiv, Kyiv region, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

Japan prime minister pledges to assist Poland in aiding Ukraine refugees

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Wednesday to aid Poland's effort to host refugees from neighboring Ukraine. A day after visiting Kyiv, Kishida met with  Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw, lauding Poland's role as "the frontline of military and humanitarian assistance" to Ukraine. More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have registered for protection in Poland, more than three times the number in any other country.

“Bearing in mind the increasing burden on Poland due to the prolonged invasion of Ukraine," Kishida said Japan "will work together with Poland to demonstrate leadership so that the international community can unite and firmly support Ukraine.”

Ukraine to get $15.6B from IMF to rebuild infrastructure, economy

The International Monetary Fund unveiled a $15.6 billion plan to help Ukraine's battered economy in the short term while supporting post-war reconstruction and easing the country's path into the EU. The four-year financing plan, subject to formal approval of the fund's board in coming weeks, also is designed to encourage international donors and partners to invest in Ukraine, which was among Europe's poorest nations even before the war began 13 months ago.

Ukraine's economic activity contracted by 30% in 2022, a large share of the capital stock has been destroyed, and poverty levels have climbed, the IMF said in a statement. A gradual economic recovery is expected as the country repairs its damaged critical infrastructure "although headwinds persist, including the risk of further escalation" of the war, said Gavin Gray, IMF mission chief for Ukraine.

“The overarching goals of the authorities’ program are to sustain economic and financial stability in circumstances of exceptionally high uncertainty, restore debt sustainability, and support Ukraine’s recovery," Gray said.

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Russia changing focus from energy to military targets, Ukraine official says

With the end of winter and the approach of warmer weather, Russian forces are switching their focus from attacking Ukraine's energy sector to military targets, according to a senior intelligence official for Ukraine.

Vadym Skibitsky, deputy chief of military intelligence, said Russia still intends to damage critical infrastructure, but aiming instead for oil refineries, defense enterprises and the like.

"The Russians will now slightly reorient the directions of strikes,'' Skibitsky told RBC Ukraine. "These can be military facilities, and the concentration of troops, and the logistics system of our groups."

Beginning in October, the Kremlin launched an intense missile and drone campaign that devastated large sections of Ukraine's energy system, with the apparent goal of breaking civilians' resolve amid the winter chill. Blackouts became common, but Ukrainian workers kept repairing the damage and air defenses became more effective at repelling the assaults, reducing their impact.

Zelenskyy visits embattled Bakhmut

Zelenskyy visited the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut on Wednesday, according to a post on his official Telegram channel. He gave out medals to troops attempting to stave off a creeping Russian advance that British intelligence chiefs say is tightening around the city from the north and south.

However, in its latest assessment published Wednesday, Britain's defense ministry said there "is a realistic possibility that the Russian assault on the town is losing the limited momentum it had obtained, partially because some Russian ... units have been reallocated to other sectors."

Later in the day, Zelenskyy presented a "Hero City of Ukraine" award to Ihor Terekhov, mayor of the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Kim Hjelmgaard

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine Russia war updates: Ukraine getting massive aid package