KYIV (AFP) – Missile strikes killed 18 people and wounded dozens in Ukraine’s Odessa region yesterday, a day after Russian troops abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s invasion.
The news came after NATO leaders wrapped up a summit in Madrid, with United States (US) President Joe Biden announcing USD800 million in new weapons for Ukraine.
“We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the alliance are going to stick with Ukraine, as long as it takes to make sure they are not defeated by Russia,” he said.
The missiles were fired early yesterday, hitting an apartment building and recreation centre about 80 kilometres south of the Black Sea port of Odessa, which has become a strategic flashpoint in the conflict.
Ukrainian emergency services initially said 17 people were killed and 30 wounded in both attacks. Senior official at the Ukrainian presidency Kyrylo Tymoshenko later wrote on Telegram that the death toll had risen to 18, including two children.
The strikes, in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, were launched by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea, said Odessa military administration spokesman Sergiy Bratchuk.
“The worst-case scenario played out and two strategic aircraft came to the Odessa region,” he said in a TV interview, adding they had fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles.
Earlier this week, there was global outrage when a Russian strike destroyed a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing at least 18 civilians. Putin has denied Moscow’s forces were responsible.
Yesterday’s attacks came a day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on Snake Island, off the coast of Odessa.
The island had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the first days of the war, when the rocky outcrop’s defenders told off a Russian warship in colourful language after it called on them to surrender – an incident that spurred a defiant meme.
It was also a strategic target, sitting aside shipping lanes near the port of Odessa. Russia had attempted to install missile and air defence batteries while under fire from drones.