Ukraine says Russian missiles kill 21 near Odessa

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Missiles slammed into a Ukrainian apartment build-ing and a recreation centre early Friday, killing 21 people and wounding dozens in the Odessa region, in attacks swiftly condemned by Germany.

At least one child was killed, Ukrainian officials said, blaming the strikes on Russia a day after Mos-cow abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s invasion.

The missiles struck the two buildings in the town of Sergiyvka about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Black Sea port of Odessa, which has become a strategic flashpoint in the now more than four-month-old war.

“The death toll in Odessa blast rose to 21,” Ser-giy Bratchuk, Odessa deputy chief of district, told Ukrainian television. A 12-year-old boy was among the dead, he added.

Ukraine’s emergency services ministry said 16 people were killed at the block of flats and five oth-ers, including a child, at the recreation centre.

Thirty-nine people were taken to hospital. The injured included six children, the ministry added.

The strikes were launched by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea, Bratchuk said.

“The worst-case scenario played out and two strategic aircraft came to the Odessa region,” he said in a television interview, adding they had fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles.

Russia made no immediate comment on the strikes. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged allies to send Kyiv “modern missile defence systems as soon as possible. Help us save lives and put an end to this war.”

“The cruel manner in which the Russian aggres-sor takes the deaths of civilians in its stride and is again speaking of collateral damages is inhuman and cynical,” said German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

The strikes follow global outrage earlier this week when a Russian strike destroyed a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing at least 18 civilians. President Vladimir Putin has denied Moscow´s forces were responsible.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed a “new” chapter of “history” with the European Union, after Brussels recently granted Ukraine candidate status in Kyiv’s push to join the 27-member bloc, even if membership is likely years away.

“Our journey to membership shouldn’t take dec-ades. We should make it down this road quickly,” Zelensky told Ukraine’s parliament.

The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told Ukrainian lawmakers that membership was “within reach” but urged them to make anti-corruption reforms.

Norway, which is not an EU member, on Friday announced $1 billion worth of aid for Kyiv including for reconstruction and weapons.

In a decision that immediately inflamed tensions further between Kyiv and Moscow, the UN’s cultural agency inscribed Ukraine’s tradition of cooking borshch soup on its list of endangered cultural heri-tage.

Ukraine considers the nourishing soup, usually made with beetroot, as a national dish although it is also widely consumed in Russia, other ex-Soviet countries and Poland.

UNESCO said the decision was approved after a fast-track process prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Victory in the borshch war is ours… (we) will win both in the war of borshch and in this war,” said Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko on Telegram.—AFP

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