Bulgaria Rejects Moscow Ultimatum To Reverse Decision To Expel 70 Diplomatic Staff

At least 20 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 pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiyivka, located about 50 kilometers southwest of Odesa. Ukrainian news reports said missiles struck a multistory apartment building and a recreation center.

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“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.

Ukrainian emergency officials said 20 people had died, including two children. Another 38 were injured, including three children.

Sixteen of the 20 victims died in the strike on the apartment building. The other four died at a recreation center, Ukrainian emergency officials said.

The air strikes followed the pullout of Russian forces from Snake Island on June 30, a move that was expected to potentially ease the threat to nearby Odesa. The island sits along a busy shipping lane.

The Kremlin portrayed the pullout from Snake Island 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.

The Odesa-area attacks come in the 19th week since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the 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, leaving at least 18 people dead and dozens more missing. Ukrainian officials have described the mall attack as a “terrorist” act, while Moscow has denied responsibility.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on July 30 that Ukrainian troops had expelled Russian forces and recaptured Snake Island in a development that he said significantly limits Russia’s actions.

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.

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.

Ukraine’s Western allies have been sending weapons to Ukraine, and on June 30 the United States said it would provide a further $800 million in weapons and military aid.

Speaking after a NATO summit in Madrid, U.S. President Joe Biden said the war would not end with Russia defeating Ukraine, adding, “We are going to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

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