Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region
Screengrab: Twitter/ @ArisMessinis

Pokrovsk (Ukraine), July 1: Russian missile attacks on residential areas killed at least 19 people in a Ukrainian town near Odesa early Friday, authorities reported. The airstrikes pierced the cautious relief expressed a day earlier after Russian forces withdrew from a Black Sea island from where they could have staged an assault on the city with Ukraine’s biggest port.

Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka, located about 50 km (31 miles) southwest of Odesa. The Ukrainian president’s office said three Kh-22 missiles fired by Russian bombers struck an apartment building and a campsite.

A terrorist country is killing our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians,” AndriyYermak, the chief of staff to Ukrainian President VolodymyrZelenskyy said.

Large numbers of civilians died in Russian strikes and shelling earlier in the war, including at a hospital, a theatre used as a bomb shelter and a train station. Until this week, mass casualties involving residents appeared to become more infrequent as Moscow concentrated on capturing eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Asked about Friday’s strike, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Moscow’s claim that it wasn’t targeting residential areas during the war, which is now in its fifth month. The Russian military is trying to strike munitions depots, weapon repair factories and troop training facilities, he said.

Ukraine’s Security Service said 19 people died, including two children. It said another 38, including six children and a pregnant woman, were hospitalized with injuries. Most of the victims were in the apartment building, Ukrainian emergency officials said.

The airstrikes followed the pullout of Russian forces from Snake Island on Thursday, a move that was expected to potentially ease the threat to nearby Odesa, home to Ukraine’s biggest port. The island sits along a busy shipping lane.

Russia took control of it in the opening days of the war in the apparent hope of using it as a staging ground for an assault on Odesa. The Kremlin portrayed the departure of Russian troops from Snake Island as a goodwill gesture intended to facilitate shipments of grain and other agricultural products to Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Ukraine’s military claimed a barrage of its artillery and missiles forced the Russians to flee in two small speedboats. The exact number of withdrawing troops was not disclosed.

The island took on significance early in the war as a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion. Ukrainian troops there reportedly received a demand from a Russian warship to surrender or be bombed. The answer supposedly came back, Go (expletive) yourself.

Zelenskyy 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.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces kept up their push to encircle the last stronghold of resistance in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the Donbas region. Moscow-backed separatists have controlled much of the region for eight years.

LuhanskGovSerhiyHaidai said the Russians were trying to encircle the city of Lysychansk and fighting for control of an oil refinery on the city’s edge.

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