Russia kills 21 with missiles near Odessa after leaving Snake Island

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SERHIIVKA – Russia has flattened part of an apartment building as residents slept Friday during rocket attacks near the Ukrainian Black Sea port city of Odessa, which authorities say killed at least 21 people, hours after Russian forces captured a nearby outpost on Snake Island leave.

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Neighbors in the holiday village of Serhiivka helped workers comb through the rubble of the nine-storey apartment building, part of which was completely destroyed by 1:00 am

Walls and windows of an adjacent 14-storey apartment building were also damaged by the blast wave. Nearby holiday camps were also affected.

“We arrived on the scene, assessed the situation together with aid workers and the local population and helped the survivors together. And those who have sadly passed away. We helped carry them away,” said Oleksandr Abramov, who lives nearby and had rushed to the crime scene when he heard the explosion.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional government, said 21 people were killed, including a 12-year-old boy. Authorities previously said 41 people had been rescued from the block of flats where 152 people lived.

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The regional governor said the Soviet-era rockets had been fired from the direction of the Black Sea.

The Kremlin denied targeting civilians: “I would like to remind you of the president’s words that the Russian armed forces do not work with civilian targets,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The attack came just four days after Russia hit a crowded shopping center in central Ukraine, killing at least 19 people.

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Kiev says Moscow has dramatically escalated its long-range strikes on civilian targets far from the frontline in recent days, describing Ukraine as a war crime. Russia says it is targeting military sites.

Thousands of civilians have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Ukraine says is an unprovoked war of aggression. Russia calls the invasion a “special operation” to exterminate nationalists.

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On Thursday, Russia withdrew its forces from Snake Island, a desolate but strategically important rock it took on the first day of the war and had used to control the northwestern Black Sea, where it has blocked Odessa and other ports.

In his overnight video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised what he described as a strategic victory over Snake Island.

“It is not yet a guarantee of safety. It doesn’t stop the enemy from coming back yet,” he said. “But this considerably limits the actions of the occupiers. Step by step we will push them back from our sea, our land and our sky.”

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In Kiev, Ukrainian lawmakers gave a standing ovation as the European Union flag was carried across the room to stand behind the podium next to Ukraine’s own flag, a symbol of Ukraine’s formal EU candidate status awarded last week.

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Zelenskyy and lawmakers also observed a minute’s silence for the victims of the morning attacks near Odessa.

Russia’s beefed-up campaign of long-range missile strikes on Ukrainian cities has come as its forces find success on the battlefield to the east, with a relentless strike to force Kiev to cede two provinces to separatists.

Moscow has been poised to take one of those provinces, Luhansk, since it took the city of Sievierodonetsk last week after some of the war’s heaviest fighting. Ukraine’s last bastion in Luhansk is the city of Lysychansk across the Siverskyi Donets River, which is nearly surrounded by relentless Russian artillery attacks.

The Russians fired on Lysychansk from different directions and approached from different directions, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Ukrainian television.

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“The superiority in firepower of the occupiers is still evident,” Zelenskyy said. “They just used all their reserves to hit us.”

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In Russian-occupied Sievierodonetsk, residents have emerged from cellars to search the rubble of their city.

“Almost all city infrastructure has been destroyed. We have been living without gas, electricity and water since May,” Sergei Oleinik, 65, told Reuters. “We are happy that this is over and that maybe soon the reconstruction will start and we will return to a more or less normal life.”

But after losses in the east, Ukraine’s victory over Snake Island makes Kiev a great success in the Black Sea. The island has been a national symbol since the first day of the war, when a Ukrainian guard ordered by Russia to surrender radioed back, “Russian warship, go ahead.”

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Russia has used its control of the sea to impose a blockade on Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and threatens to destroy Ukraine’s economy and cause global famine.

Moscow denies being responsible for a food crisis, which it says is caused by Western sanctions that damage its own exports. President Vladimir Putin met the president of Indonesia on Thursday and spoke by phone with the prime minister of India on Friday, promising both major food importers that Russia would remain a major grain supplier.

Expelling the Russians from Snake Island could be a step towards reopening the port of Odessa, although military analysts say Russia could still threaten cargo ships at sea.

Ukraine hopes to do enough damage in the east to exhaust Russia’s advancing army and turn the tide in the coming months with advanced weapons arriving from the west.

In the latest sign of Russia’s break with Europe, the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria said she would call for the closure of its embassy, ​​along with the Bulgarian embassy in Moscow, following Sofia’s refusal to deport diplomats it had expelled for spying. to recover.

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