Ukraine says Russian strike kills at least 21 in Odesa as U.S. pledges $820M more military aid

Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a coastal town near the port city of Odesa early Friday killed at least 21 people, Ukrainian authorities reported on Saturday.

Local news reports missiles struck apartment, resort area in Ukrainian port city

At least 21 people including two children were killed today from a Russian cruise missile strike near Odesa, Ukraine. The motive of the attack is unclear, but it comes after Ukraine scored a recent military victory in the Black Sea.

Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a coastal town near the port city of Odesa early Friday killed at least 21 people, Ukrainian authorities reported on Saturday.

Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka, about 50 kilometres southwest of Odesa. Ukrainian news reports said missiles struck a multi-storey apartment building and a resort area.

"A terrorist country is killing our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians," said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the Odesa regional administration, said 21 people had been confirmed killed, including a 12-year-old boy. Bratchuk said earlier on the Telegram messaging app that another 30 people had been injured.

Missiles fired from Black Sea: governor

Among the fatalities was an employee of the Children's Rehabilitation Centre set up by Ukraine's neighbour Moldova in the resort.

"These peaceful people made the days of the children of Moldova more beautiful, they took care of their rehabilitation with great love and devotion," Moldovan Health Minister Alla Nemerenko said on her Facebook page.

The regional governor said the missiles had been fired from the direction of the Black Sea.

The Kremlin denied targeting civilians.

"I would like to remind you of the president's words that the Russian Armed Forces do not work with civilian targets," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Russia has focused its main ground campaign on Ukraine's East, where it demands Kyiv cede full control of two provinces to pro-Russian separatist proxies.

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More than a dozen civilians were killed in a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping mall, while Russia and Ukraine made the largest prisoner swap of the war. NATO also extended an invitation for membership to Sweden and Finland. Here’s a recap of the war in Ukraine from June 25 to July 1.

Ukraine's last bastion in the province of Luhansk is the city of Lysychansk across the Siverskyi Donets river, which is close to being encircled under relentless Russian artillery assault.

Ukraine's presidential office said Russian strikes in the past 24 hours also killed civilians in Eastern Ukraine — four each in the northeastern Kharkiv region and in Donetsk province.

U.S. sending more aid

The U.S. announced on Friday that it will provide Ukraine with $820 million US in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia's heavy reliance on long-range strikes in the war.

Russia in recent days has launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine and pinned down Ukrainian forces with continuous fire for sometimes hours at a time. Ukraine's leaders have publicly called on Western allies to quickly send more ammunition and advanced systems that will help them narrow the gap in equipment and manpower.

All told, the U.S. has committed more than $8.8 billion US in weapons and military training to Ukraine, whose leaders have sought more help from Western allies to repel larger and heavily equipped Russian forces. About $7 billion of that aid has been announced since Russia's February invasion.

"We are going to support Ukraine as long as it takes," U.S. President Joe Biden said this week at a press conference during the NATO summit in Madrid. He argued that Russia had already suffered a blow to its international standing and major damage to its economy from Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

With files from Reuters

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