KYIV, Ukraine — At least 21 people were killed and 30 injured in a Russian missile strike early Friday in southern Ukraine’s Odesa region, authorities said, a day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on an island off the coast of Odesa that has become a symbol of the Ukrainians’ stiff resistance.
Sergei Bratchuk, a spokesman for Odesa’s military administration, said the missiles were launched by aircraft in the Black Sea and struck a nine-story apartment building. At least two of the dead were children and three other kids were rescued from the rubble. Video of the attack before daybreak showed the charred ruins of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka.
Ukrainian authorities interpreted the attack as payback for Russian troops being forced off Snake Island, a tiny rocky outcrop south of Odesa and just 30 miles from European Union nation Romania’s closest coastal city. Moscow, however, called its Thursday withdrawal a “gesture of goodwill” over allegations it is blocking grain exports from Ukrainian ports.
Ukrainian civilians are being killed and injured every day by Russian missile strikes and artillery shelling. On Monday, at least 18 people were killed and dozens injured in a missile strike on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine. About 1,000 people were in the mall at the time and at least 20 are still missing.
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MAPPING AND TRACKING:Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
► Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed full control over a major oil and natural gas project partly owned by Shell and two Japanese companies to a newly created Russian firm, a bold move amid spiraling tensions with the West over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.
► An international film festival in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary kicked off Friday amid controversy following a protest by Ukraine against the scheduled screening of a Russian movie, “Captain Volkonogov Escaped.”
►Russian forces deliberately dropped two 1,000-plus-pound bombs on the Mariupol theater that was being used as a shelter March 16, resulting in a mass killing of civilians that amounted to a war crime, according to evidence cited in a report Thursday by the rights group Amnesty International.
Speaking in Madrid, President Joe Biden vowed Thursday the U.S. and its NATO allies would back Ukraine “for as long as it takes” in its war with Russia.
Russia is paying “a very, very heavy price” for its decision to invade Ukraine, Biden said, during a news conference in Madrid at the close of a six-day trip to Europe, which included a summit of NATO leaders.
Earlier this month, Moscow defaulted on its national debt for the first time in a century and its economy has suffered because of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its NATO allies.
“I don’t know how it’s going to end,” Biden said of the war, “but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine.”
— Francesca Chambers and Michael Collins, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press