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Two universities in Mykolaiv hit by Russian missile strikes, as Ukraine points to civilian casualties in Vinnytsia attack

City cleaners work on the street in front of the damaged Mykolaiv National University.Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — Russian missiles struck two university complexes Friday morning in the southern city of Mykolaiv, heavily damaging nearby shops and buildings and injuring at least four people, the regional governor said.

Washington Post reporters heard explosions in the city starting around 7:30 a.m. local time. An official investigating possible war crimes could be seen examining a crater caused by one of the weapons, which the governor identified as S-300 surface-to-air missiles.

Also on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced Russia as a “terrorist state” after Thursday’s missile attack on civilian targets in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, which left at least 23 dead. Russia, which has denied causing civilian casualties throughout the war despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, claimed Friday that the Vinnytsia strike targeted a meeting between Ukrainian officials and foreign arms dealers.

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The strikes on the university complexes in Mykolaiv were from nine S-300 missiles, a surface-to-air weapon that the Ukrainian military has said Russian forces have resorted to using for land targets, possibly because of a shortage of surface-to-surface missiles.

At Mykolaiv National University, the blasts shattered hundreds of windows and partially collapsed the top floor of the university’s main, Soviet-era building. The explosions launched furniture across classrooms and destroyed laboratories filled with research equipment.

Inside the building, police officers standing amid stacks of books removed broken glass from the windows of a small library. Outside, dozens of municipal workers swept the streets clean of glass as heavy machinery removed broken concrete thrown dozens of feet by the blasts.

Workers from Ukraine’s State Emergency Service flew a drone to survey the damage to a partially collapsed section of the university’s main building. At least three impact craters were visible. One of the strikes blasted shrapnel and debris into nearby shops and destroyed a semi-truck parked on a side street.

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At the National University of Shipbuilding, also struck on Friday, a stream of employees entered the building to gather documents and computers from the now windowless offices. University employee Yuri Alekseev carefully loaded stacks of research papers and computer equipment in his van after receiving a call from a frantic professor hoping to save what was left of their office.

“War is war, but studies must continue,” Alekseev said.

Outside, a member of the region’s office prosecuting war crimes examined a large crater near the building, pulling missile fragments from the freshly upturned earth.

In Vinnytsia, far from the front lines, the search continued for dozens of missing people Friday, after Thursday’s missile strike that killed 23 and injured scores of others, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said. A woman laid red roses near the target of a missile strike, and rescuers waded through buildings with collapsed walls and shattered windows. A forklift took away the scorched husks of cars.

Three children were among the dead, one of them a child with Down syndrome named Lisa, Ukrainian officials said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed Friday that its missiles targeted a meeting of the command of the Ukrainian armed forces, according to Russian news agency Tass. Ukrainian officials accused Moscow of striking a location with no military targets and shared images that appeared to show a bloodied child and a stroller lying on a street littered with debris.

Russia routinely claims it strikes only military targets, even when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

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Zelensky said the missiles also destroyed a medical center, and he called on the “democratic world” to declare Russia a “terrorist state.”