In this photo provided by the Ukrainian emergency services, first responders work in a damaged residential building in Odessa, Ukraine, early Friday, July 1, 2022, following Russian missile attacks.

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In this photo provided by the Ukrainian emergency services, first responders work in a damaged residential building in Odessa, Ukraine, early Friday, July 1, 2022, following Russian missile attacks.

PA

Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a coastal town near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa killed at least 18 people on Friday, including two children, authorities said, a day after Russian forces withdrew from a strategic island in the Black Sea.

Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the small town of Serhiivka, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Odessa. According to Ukrainian reports, missiles hit a multi-storey building and a resort area.

“A terrorist country kills our people. In response to defeats on the battlefield, they fight civilians,” said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kirill Tymoshenko, said 18 people had died, including two children. A spokesman for the Odessa regional government, Serhiy Bratchuk, said on the Telegram messaging app that 30 other people were injured.

Sixteen of the 18 victims died in the attack on the building, Ukrainian emergency officials said.

The airstrikes followed the withdrawal of Russian forces from Snake Island on Thursday, a move that could potentially lessen the threat to nearby Odessa. The island lies along a busy shipping lane. Russia took control of it in the early days of the war in the apparent hope of using it as staging ground for an assault on Odessa.

The Kremlin described the removal from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture”. The Ukrainian army called for a barrage from its artillery and missiles forced the Russians to flee in two small speedboats. The exact number of troops withdrawing has not been disclosed.

Russian shelling killed large numbers of civilians early in the war, including at a hospital and theater in the port city of Mariupol. Mass casualties seemed to become rarer as Moscow focused on capturing the entire Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

However, a missile strike Monday on a shopping center in Kremenchuk, a city in central Ukraine, left at least 19 people dead and 62 injured, authorities said Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday denied that Russian forces had targeted the mall, saying his country was not hitting civilian facilities. He claimed the target in Kremenchuk was a nearby arms depot, echoing remarks by his military officials.

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