At least 21 people including two children have died after two Russian missiles struck a multistorey block of flats and a recreation centre in a small coastal town near Odesa, an attack Ukrainian authorities interpreted as payback for Russian troops being forced from Snake Island a day earlier.
Video showed the charred ruins of buildings in the town of Serhiyivka. The Ukrainian president’s office said three X-22 missiles fired by Russian warplanes struck a block of flats and a campsite shortly before 1am local time.
Ukraine’s security service said a further 38 people, including six children and a pregnant woman, were taken to hospital with injuries. Most of those killed and injured were asleep when the missiles struck.
The attack came at the end of a week in which Moscow has escalated its long-range attacks, hitting civilian targets far from the frontline.
Odesa’s military spokesperson, Sergei Bratchuk, said the missile attack was carried out by “strategic aircraft” from the direction of the Black Sea. “One rocket hit a nine-storey residential building, the other a holiday campsite in the Belgorod-Dniester region,” he said.
Neighbours helped workers comb through the rubble of the block, a section of which had been destroyed. Oleksandr Abramov, who lives nearby and had rushed to the scene when he heard the blast, said: “We came here to the site, assessed the situation together with emergency workers and locals, and together helped those who survived. And those who unfortunately died. We helped to carry them away.”
Three people, including a child, were killed in the strike on the holiday camp, said the state emergency service.
Roman Hryshchuk, a Ukrainian MP, shared a video purportedly from the attack, saying: “Just imagine: you wake up and realise that there is no way out. People were trapped in their own apartments after Russian missiles hit a residential high-rise in Odesa.”
Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “A terrorist country is killing our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians.”
Moscow has so far denied responsibility for the strike, and the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, reiterated Russia’s claim that it was not targeting residential areas. “The Russian military is trying to strike munitions depots, weapon repair factories and troop training facilities,” he said.
On Thursday Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces from Snake Island, a strategically important Black Sea island off the southern coast near Odesa. “The occupiers cannot win on the battlefield so they resort to vile killing of civilians,” Ivan Bakanov, the head of Ukraine’s security service, the SBU, said of Friday’s attack. “After the enemy was dislodged from Snake Island, he decided to respond with the cynical shelling of civilian targets.”
Russia portrayed the pullout from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture”. Ukraine’s military said the Russians fled in two speedboats after a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes.
The island took on significance early in the war as a symbol of Ukrainian defiance. When a Russian warship demanded the island’s defenders surrender, they supposedly replied: “Go fuck yourself.”
Zelenskiy said that although the pullout did not guarantee the Black Sea region’s safety, it would “significantly limit” Russian activities there. “Step by step, we will push [Russia] out of our sea, our land, our sky,” he said in his nightly address.
Earlier this week two Russian X-22 cruise missiles hit a crowded shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, killing at least 18 people and injuring dozens more.
The Ukrainian defence ministry said the attack on Monday afternoon was deliberately timed to coincide with the shopping centre’s busiest hours and cause the maximum number of casualties. Authorities estimated there were between 200 and 1,000 people inside at the time of the attack. Many managed to flee to a nearby bomb shelter when they heard the air raid sirens. Others did not make it in time and remained trapped inside. About 20 people are still missing.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces kept up their push to encircle the city of Lysychansk, having reduced its twin city, Sievierodonetsk,to rubble. If Lysychansk falls, the entire region of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk makes up the eastern Donbas region, could come under Russian control, marking another strategic breakthrough for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
“The shelling of the city is very intensive,” Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, told Associated Press. “The occupiers are destroying one house after another with heavy artillery and other weapons. Residents of Lysychansk are hiding in basements almost round the clock.”
The offensive has failed so far to cut Ukrainian supply lines, although the main highway leading west was not being used because of constant Russian shelling, the governor said. “The evacuation is impossible.”
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )