21 dead in southern Ukraine strikes, after Russia quits Snake Island

Kyiv, Ukraine – At least 21 people were killed and dozens wounded Friday in missile strikes on Ukraine’s Odessa region, 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 US President Joe Biden announcing $800 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.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared surging diplomatic tensions to the Cold War, telling reporters: “As far as an Iron Curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending… The process has begun.”

There was a glimmer of hope however, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited Moscow on Thursday after a trip to Kyiv, said he had given Russian President Vladimir Putin a message from their Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. Neither side has revealed what was in the note. Hours after the summit ended, missiles were fired at an apartment building and recreation centre in the southern region of Odessa, a strategic flashpoint that is home to Ukraine’s historic port city of the same name.

The nine-storey apartment building was partially destroyed, leaving 14 people dead and 30 wounded, including several children, the emergency services said.  Three people, including a child, were killed and one wounded in the attack on the recreation centre, they said.

The strikes, in the Bilgorod-Dnistrovsky district, 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.  Bratchuk urged people not to post online information about the rescue operation.

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