Sergiyvka (Ukraine): Missiles slammed into a Ukrainian apartment building and a recreation centre early Friday, killing 21 people and wounding dozens in the Odessa region, in attacks swiftly condemned by Germany.
At least one child was killed, Ukrainian officials said, blaming the strikes on Russia a day after Moscow abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s invasion.
Ukraine’s army accused Russia of carrying out strikes using incendiary phosphorus munitions on Snake Island after Moscow withdrew its forces from the rocky outcrop in the Black Sea.
The Russian defence ministry on Thursday described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organise protected grain exports from Ukraine.
In a statement, the Ukraine army accused the Russians of being unable to “respect even their own declarations”.
Its statement was accompanied by a video that showed a plane drop munitions at least twice on the island, and what appeared to be white streaks rising above it.
The missiles which struck the two buildings in the town of Sergiyvka about 80km south of the Black Sea port of Odessa, which has become a strategic flashpoint in the now more than four-month-old war.
“The death toll in the Odessa blast rose to 21,” Sergiy Bratchuk, Odessa deputy chief of district, told Ukrainian television. A 12-year-old boy was among the dead, he added.
Ukraine’s emergency services ministry said 16 people were killed at the block of flats and five others, including a child, at the recreation centre.
The strikes were launched by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea, Bratchuk said.
“The worst-case scenario played out and two strategic aircraft came to the Odessa region,” he said in a television interview, adding that they had fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles.
Russia made no immediate comment on the strikes.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged allies to send Kyiv “modern missile defence systems as soon as possible. Help us save lives and put an end to this war”.
“The cruel manner in which the Russian aggressor takes the deaths of civilians in its stride and is again speaking of collateral damage is inhuman and cynical,” said German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
The strikes follow global outrage earlier this week when a Russian strike destroyed a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing at least 18 civilians.
President Vladimir Putin has denied Moscow’s forces were responsible.
Phosphorus weapons, which leave a signature white trail in the sky, are incendiary weapons whose use against civilians is banned under an international convention but allowed for military targets.
On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed a “new” chapter of “history” with the European Union, after Brussels recently granted Ukraine candidate status in Kyiv’s push to join the 27-member bloc, even if membership is likely years away. — Agencies