At least 21 people have been killed, including two children, in Russian missile attacks on a village near the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, authorities said, a day after Russian invading forces withdrew from a strategic Black Sea island.
Video of the aftermath of the predawn attack on July 1 showed the charred remains of buildings in Serhiyivka, located about 50 kilometers southwest of Odesa. Ukrainian news reports said missiles struck a multistory apartment building and a recreational center.
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Ukrainian authorities linked the missile strikes to the withdrawal of Russian troops from Snake Island a day earlier.
“A terrorist country is killing our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians,” Andriy Yermak, the chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Twitter.
According to Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for Odesa’s regional military administration, rescuers have so far found 21 dead as a result of the missile attack.
Ukrainian emergency officials said earlier that two children were among the dead and said 38 people were injured, including three children.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posted photos of the destruction on Twitter and appealed for weapons.
“Terrorist state Russia continues its war against civilians with overnight missile strikes on Odesa region killing dozens, including children,” he said. “I urge partners to provide Ukraine with modern missile defense systems as soon as possible. Help us save lives and put an end to this war.”
The withdrawal of Russian forces from Snake Island was expected to potentially ease the threat to nearby Odesa. The island sits along a busy shipping lane.
The Kremlin portrayed the withdrawal as a “goodwill gesture.” 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.
Control of Snake Island, located about 40 kilometers from Ukraine’s coast near the Danube Delta, had enabled Russia to threaten the sea lanes leading to and from Odesa, Ukraine’s main port for shipping grain to the world.
General Valery Zaluzhny, commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said on July 1 that Russian planes had dropped phosphorus bombs on the island.
“The leadership of the armed forces of the Russian Federation does not even adhere to its own statements, which declare a `gesture of goodwill,”’ Zaluzhny said on Telegram. He posted a video of explosions hitting the island on Facebook.
The attacks on the civilian buildings in Serhiyivka came in the 19th of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s large-scale invasion, with Russian forces otherwise focused on what Ukrainians call an “enormous” bombardment of the last major city holding out in the east, Lysychansk, and the shelling of civilian settlements in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
It also follows an attack earlier this week on a crowded shopping mall in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have described the mall attack as a “terrorist” act, while Moscow has denied responsibility.
Ukrainian State Emergency Service on July 1 raised the number of confirmed dead in the attack to 19 and the number of injured to 64. Among the injured, 26 were hospitalized. The Prosecutor-General’s Office reported that 36 people remain missing.
WATCH: Survivors of the Russian missile attack on the Amstor shopping mall in Kremenchuk on June 27 describe digging themselves out of rubble, being helped by strangers, and missing death by pure chance.
The head of the military administration of the Luhansk region to the east, Serhiy Hayday, said Lysychansk “is constantly being shelled with large [gun] calibers” by the Russian forces attempting to encircle the strategic hilltop city — a key battleground in Moscow’s attempt to conquer Ukraine’s industrial heartland of Donbas.
After weeks of fighting that killed hundreds of civilians and turned the city into rubble, Moscow took control of neighboring Syevyerodonetsk, and is now setting its sights on Lysychansk.
The United States said on July 1 that a new package of military aid worth $820 million will include new surface-to-air missile systems and anti-artillery radar systems.
“We are going to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on June 30 at the close of a NATO summit in Madrid.
As part of the new package, the United States will purchase two systems known as NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed antiaircraft system.
Zelenskiy thanked Biden for providing the NASAMS, which he said will “significantly strengthen our antiaircraft defense.”
In addition to the NASAMS, the package includes artillery ammunition and radar systems, he said in a video message late on July 1.
According to Zelenskiy, Ukraine is actively negotiating for other new weapons from partners.
“This is necessary for the Donbas, for the Kharkiv region, for the south of Ukraine. We are doing everything to break the advantage of the occupiers,” he said.
With reporting by AP