Russian missile strikes killed at least 21 people and injured dozens in Ukraine's Odesa region Friday. At least one of the sites targeted was a residential building. Ukrainian military officials said two children were among the dead and the search for survivors is ongoing. The missile struck the 9-story building in the town of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, according to a Ukraine Defense Ministry statement.
Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa regional administration, said on Ukrainian state television that a rescue operation continues to free people buried under the rubble after a section of the building collapsed.
Another missile hit a resort facility, Bratchuk said, wounding several people.
Russia has denied targeting civilians since it invaded Ukraine in late February.
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, first responders work a damaged residential building in Odesa, Ukraine, July 1, 2022, following Russian missile attacks.
Friday's missile attack in Odesa came hours after Russia said it retreated its forces from Ukraine's Snake Island on Thursday. The strategic island had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since Moscow's invasion four months ago.
Russia had used the Black Sea island near the port city of Odesa as a staging ground after seizing it in the early stages of the war, launching attacks on Ukraine from it and monitoring shipments from Ukrainian ports.
But Ukraine confirmed Russian forces had pulled out and said it came after Ukrainian forces hit the island with missile and artillery strikes overnight, leaving the remaining Russian forces to escape in two speedboats.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed it had left the small island "as a symbol of goodwill" after completing its mission there. It said the departure demonstrated that Russia does not interfere with the export of Ukrainian grain, although global monitors say otherwise. Developing nations, especially in the Middle East, depend on Ukraine and Russia for their wheat.
A regional Ukrainian official said a cargo ship filled with 7,000 tons of grain left the port of Russian-occupied Berdyansk for the first time in months on Thursday. The official said it was government-owned grain and that the ship is sailing toward "friendly countries."
In other developments, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told Ukraine's parliament that EU membership was 'within reach' but urged them to press forward with anti-corruption reforms.
"You have created an impressive anti-corruption machine," she told the lawmakers by video link Friday. Von der Leyen stressed that Brussels and the EU member states were firmly behind Ukraine in both its battle with the ongoing Russian invasion and the quest to be "reunited with our European family". For his part President Zelensky said Ukraine and the European Union were starting a new chapter of their history after Brussels formally accepted Ukraine's candidacy to join the 27-nation bloc.
We made a journey of 115 days to candidate status and our journey to membership shouldn't take decades. We should make it down this road quickly," Zelensky said.
At the NATO meeting in Madrid, Western leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, proclaimed their continued military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.
Britain on Thursday announced another $1 billion in aid, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office saying the money would go toward air defense systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and vital equipment for Ukrainian troops.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.