Casualties in strikes in southern Ukraine, after Russia leaves Snake Island

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At least 17 people were killed and dozens injured on July 1 in missile strikes on Ukraine’s Odessa region, a day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the invasion of the Kremlin.

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’re going to stay with Ukraine, and the whole alliance is going to stay with Ukraine, for as long as it takes to make sure it’s not defeated by Russia,” he said. .

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov likened rising diplomatic tensions to the Cold War, telling reporters: “As for the Iron Curtain, it is already falling… The process has started”.

There was a silver lining, however, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited Moscow on Thursday after a trip to Kyiv, said he had delivered Russian President Vladimir Putin a message from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Neither side revealed what was in the note.

Hours after the summit ended, missiles were fired at an apartment building and recreation center in the southern region of Odessa, a strategic flashpoint that is home to Ukraine’s historic port city of the same name.

The nine-story building was partially destroyed, leaving 14 dead and 30 injured, including several children, emergency services said.

Three people, including a child, were killed and one injured in the attack on the leisure centre, they said.
The strikes, in the Bilgorod-Dnistrovsky district, were launched by planes arriving from the Black Sea, Odessa military administration spokesman Sergiy Bratchuk said.

“The worst-case scenario unfolded and two strategic aircraft arrived in the Odessa region,” he said in a television interview, adding that they fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles.

Bratchuk urged people not to post information about the rescue operation online.

Friday’s first strikes came a day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on Snake Island, off Odessa.

The island had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the early days of the war, when defenders of the rocky outcrop told a Russian warship to “fuck you” after it called on them to surrender – an incident that sparked a defiant meme.
It was also a strategic target, located next to the shipping lanes near the port of Odessa. Russia had tried to install missile and air defense batteries under drone fire.
The decision to abandon Snake Island “significantly changes the situation in the Black Sea,” Zelensky said in his daily address Thursday.
“It does not yet guarantee security. It does not yet guarantee that the enemy will not return. But it already considerably limits the actions of the occupants.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited Snake Island as he warned the Russian president that any possible peace deal would be on Ukraine’s terms.
“We’ve seen what Ukraine can do to push back the Russians. We’ve seen what they’ve done around Kyiv and Kharkiv, now on Snake Island,” Johnson said.
The Russian Defense Ministry statement described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” intended to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organize protected grain exports from Ukraine.
But Ukrainian officials claimed it as a victory.
“They always minimize their defeats in this way,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.
In peacetime, Ukraine is a major agricultural exporter, but the Russian invasion damaged farmland and saw Ukrainian ports seized, razed or blockaded, threatening grain importers in Africa with starvation.
Western powers have accused Putin of using the booby-trapped crop as a weapon to increase pressure on the international community, and Russia has been accused of stealing grain.

A ship carrying 7,000 tons of grain left the occupied Ukrainian port of Berdyansk on Thursday, the regional chief appointed by the Russian occupying forces said.
Evgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Moscow administration, said Russian Black Sea vessels “provide security” for the voyage, adding that the port had been cleared of mines.
Separately, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces are holding more than 6,000 Ukrainian POWs who have been captured since the February 24 invasion.
The conflict in Ukraine dominated the NATO summit in Madrid this week, as the alliance formally invited Sweden and Finland to join, and Biden announced new deployments of US troops, ships and aircraft in Europe.
Russian missiles continued to rain down elsewhere in Ukraine and a United Nations official said on Thursday that 16 million people in Ukraine needed humanitarian aid.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, rescuers found the bodies of seven civilians in the rubble of a destroyed building, emergency services said.
The town of Lysychansk in the eastern Donbass region – the current center of the Russian offensive – is also facing heavy shelling.
The situation in Lysychansk – the last major city to be taken over by the Russians in the Luhansk region – was “extremely difficult” with incessant shelling making it impossible to evacuate civilians, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said.
“There is a lot of shelling… The Russian army is approaching from different directions,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.

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