Ukraine says at least 21 people were killed when Russian missiles smashed into houses near the port city of Odessa


Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a nearby coastal town UkraineThe port city of Odessa killed at least 21 people, including two children, early Friday, authorities reported a day after Russian forces withdrew from the strategic Snake Island in the Black Sea.

Video of the attack before dawn showed the charred ruins of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka, some 50 kilometers from Odessa. The Office of the President of Ukraine said warplanes fired three rockets, hitting an apartment building and a campsite.

Ukrainian authorities interpreted the attack as payback for withdrawing Russian troops from Snake Island a day earlier, although Moscow portrayed their withdrawal as a “goodwill gesture” to unblock grain exports.

At least 17 dead when Russian missiles hit Odessa, Ukraine
A building destroyed by a Russian missile attack that killed 17 people and wounded 31, according to Ukrainian officials, is seen in Odessa, Ukraine, July 1, 2022.

Maksym Voitenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Russian forces took over the island in the early days of the war in apparent hopes of using it as a base for an attack on Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port and the headquarters of its navy.

“The occupiers cannot win on the battlefield, so they resort to heinous killings of civilians,” said Ivan Bakanov, head of Ukraine’s security service SBU. “After being driven off Snake Island, the enemy decided to respond by cynically shelling civilian targets.”

Large numbers of civilians were killed in Russian bombings early in the war, including at a hospital, a theater used as a shelter, and a train station. Up until this week, mass casualties involving residents appeared to be diminishing as Moscow focused on conquering eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Russian missiles hit the Kyiv region last weekend after weeks of relative silence in the capital, and an airstrike on Monday on a shopping center in downtown Kremenchuk killed at least 19 people.

A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island
A satellite image shows an overview of Snake Island, Ukraine, on June 21, 2022.

Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed outrage at Friday’s attack.

“These missiles, Kh-22, were designed to destroy aircraft carriers and other large warships, and the Russian army used them against an ordinary nine-story building with ordinary civilians,” he said.

Twenty-one people were killed, including children, said Serhii Bratchuk, a spokesman for the regional administration. Thirty-eight others, including six children and a pregnant woman, were hospitalized. Most of the victims were in the apartment building, Ukrainian emergency officials said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Moscow is not targeting residential areas.

Oleh Zhdanov, an independent Ukrainian military analyst, said the Russian withdrawal from Snake Island had “colossal psychological significance” for Ukraine.

“Snake Island is key to controlling the Black Sea and could help cover the Russian attack if the Kremlin decides to launch an amphibious assault operation in Odessa or elsewhere in the region,” he said. “Now those plans are being pushed back.”

The Ukrainian military claimed a barrage from its artillery and rockets forced the Russians to flee the island in two small speedboats. The exact number of troops withdrawn was not disclosed.

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At the beginning of the war, the island became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance. When a Russian warship demanded surrender from its defenders, they reportedly replied, “Go (expletively) yourself.”

Zelenskyy said that while the withdrawal does not guarantee the security of the Black Sea region, it would “significantly limit” Russian activities there.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continued their push to encircle the city of Lysyhansk, the last resistance stronghold in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up Donbass.

“The shelling of the city is very intense,” said Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai. “The occupiers are destroying house after house with heavy artillery and other weapons. Residents of Lysychansk hide in basements almost around the clock.”

Haidai said the Russians are fighting for control of an oil refinery on the outskirts of the city. But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian and separatist forces had seized control of the refinery, as well as a mine and a gelatin factory.

Ukraine’s Presidential Office said Russian attacks over the past 24 hours had also killed civilians in eastern Ukraine – four in the northeastern region of Kharkiv and another four in Donetsk province.

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