Russian rockets kill 21 Ukrainians in Black Sea village after Snake Island pullout – The Irish Times

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Ukrainian officials said at least 21 people, including two children, were killed when Russian missiles hit a village near the port of Odessa, as the country’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the strategic situation on the Black Sea coast had “changed dramatically” with the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops from Snake Island.

Thirty-seven people were also injured in the nighttime attack on an apartment building and holiday camp in the village of Serhiivka, which was the latest in a wave of deadly missile strikes this week on Ukrainian towns. . At least 18 people have been killed, dozens injured and around 20 are still missing after rockets hit a shopping center in Kremenchuk on Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia “does not attack civilian targets or civilian infrastructure”. It carries out strikes against military warehouses, industrial installations where military equipment is maintained and repaired, ammunition depots and sites where mercenaries and nationalist elements are stationed and trained”.

Some Ukrainian officials have suggested the attack was the Kremlin’s revenge for events around Snake Island, a small but strategic outcrop near Odessa from where Russian troops withdrew this week; Moscow called the move a “goodwill gesture”, but Kyiv said artillery barrages forced the Russian contingent to retreat.

“A terrorist country is killing our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians,” said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Mr. Zelenskiy.

Mr Zelenskiy said that the liberation of the uninhabited Snake Island “dramatically changes the situation in the Black Sea. It still does not guarantee security, it still does not guarantee that the enemy will not return. But it already considerably limits the actions of the occupiers. Step by step, we will drive them out of our sea, our land and our sky.

He described the fighting in the eastern Donbass region as “very difficult” and said Russia’s advantage in terms of the amount of artillery and ammunition it could call upon in the region was still “strongly apparent”. “.

“They just took everything out of storage to hit us,” he added, as the fiercest battles continued to rage around the industrial city of Lysychansk in the Lugansk region.

“The shelling of the city is very intensive,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said. “The occupiers are destroying one house after another with heavy artillery and other weapons. Residents of Lysychansk hide in basements almost around the clock.”

Russia has made seizing all of Donbass – which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – its top priority after failing to capture Kyiv, Kharkiv and other major Ukrainian cities in the first weeks of its all-out war against the country, which has killed thousands of people. people and millions of displaced people.

The conflict has destroyed already strained relations between Russia and the West and prompted NATO to pledge this week to significantly strengthen its security deterrent elements in Europe and to admit Finland and Sweden as new members.

Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Russian envoy to Bulgaria, said on Friday she would ask Moscow to close the embassy in Sofia after the EU and the NATO member expelled 70 Russian diplomatic staff this week.

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