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Russian Missiles Kill 21 in Residential Area in Odessa Region, Ukraine Says

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 7/1/2022 Thomas Grove, Yuliya Chernova
© REUTERS/IRYNA NAZARCHUK

Russian missile strikes on a neighborhood in the southern Ukrainian region of Odessa killed at least 21 people, some of them children, according to Ukrainian officials.

The overnight attack—the latest in a surge of Russian strikes—was launched from a strategic bomber over the Black Sea hours after the conclusion of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit where President Biden promised to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

Russia has increasingly used its strategic bombers to launch antiship missiles at Ukrainian targets. Earlier this week, a similar strike on a shopping mall in central Ukraine killed at least 20 people, and a barrage of missiles hit the capital city of Kyiv after weeks of relative calm there.

“Russia must be held accountable for its crimes,” said Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional administration, adding that the Russians had used Soviet X-22 rockets. “The warhead of such a missile alone weighs almost a ton.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian armed forces don’t target civilian infrastructure, in response to a question about the Odessa attack at a Friday press conference, according to Russian state media.

The Ukraine Security Service said nearly 40 people had been hospitalized after the strikes on an apartment building and a recreational center, including a pregnant woman, and one child was in a coma after being pulled from the rubble. Two children were among those killed in the attacks, which were carried out while people were sleeping, local officials said.

Meanwhile, near Moscow, American basketball player Brittney Griner arrived in court for hearings in a trial on drug charges. Images of handcuffed Ms. Griner, in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, being escorted in court, were published in Russian state media.

The court had already extended her detention through this December. Ms. Griner was arrested in mid-February in a Moscow airport. Russian authorities say she was carrying illegal vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage.

Mr. Peskov told reporters Friday that Ms. Griner wasn’t a political pawn, and sought to distance the Kremlin from the legal proceedings. The U.S. State Department has said she was wrongfully detained.

The increase in Russian attacks in Ukraine has come as Western leaders met at two summits that have underscored Western unity and broad support for Kyiv in the face of Moscow’s aggression. Western countries pledged billions of dollars in additional military support and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The U.S. committed to its biggest military expansion in Europe since the Cold War at the NATO summit on Wednesday, including its first permanent troop presence in Poland, while members struck a preliminary deal to add the formerly neutral nations of Sweden and Finland to the alliance.


Video: Russian missile strike in Ukraine's Mykolaiv blamed for three deaths (Reuters)

The permanent troop presence in Poland would amount to only a few hundred additional personnel on top of the roughly 12,000 U.S. troops that rotate through the country, said Paweł Soloch, national security adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda. But those permanently stationed personnel will include general-grade officers, he said, a sign of increasing coordination and alignment between America and its NATO allies bordering Russia. And it will mean increased deployments of logistics and weaponry to support the U.S. and NATO troops there.

“More importantly, a declaration has been made that this is going to be a permanent presence,” he said. “This is critical for us.”

In Ukraine, Russia is strengthening the integration of territories under its control.

Public transportation links are being established between some of the territories that Russia recently took control of and the Crimean Peninsula, which has been in Russia’s hands since 2014. The first public buses ran between the towns of Kherson, Berdyansk, Melitopol, and the Crimean city of Simferopol on Friday, according to Russian state-media reports. There had been no such links since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

One of Russia’s top administration officials, Sergei Kiriyenko, visited the Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on Thursday, according to Russian media. Mr. Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, toured a volunteer-run food-distribution center in Kupyansk.

On Thursday, Russia withdrew from the strategically important Snake Island. Ukrainian forces carried out missile and artillery strikes that forced Russian troops to abandon the southern outpost in the Black Sea in two speedboats, the Ukrainian General Staff said in a statement.

The small island, captured at the start of the war, had been an offshore platform for Russia to aim weapons at Ukraine, and Moscow’s control had allowed troops there to monitor shipments from Ukrainian ports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Thursday that the Russian pullout “significantly changes the situation in the Black Sea.”

“It does not guarantee safety yet, it does not yet guarantee that the enemy will not return,” he said. “But it already limits the actions of the occupiers significantly.’’

The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops had left the island “as a symbol of goodwill” after completing their mission there.

Russia said the withdrawal shows it doesn’t interfere with the export of Ukrainian grain, following the wishes of the United Nations, and that it is now up to Ukraine to clear mines and allow the safe passage of cargo ships in the Black Sea.

The British Defense Ministry said Ukraine’s consistent missile and drone attacks against the Russian garrison, together with the successful use of antiship missiles to prevent Moscow from resupplying the island, were key to the Russian withdrawal.

Ukraine this week carried out its first strikes with newly arrived U.S. multiple-launch rocket systems, which Kyiv and the West hope will turn the tide of the war, particularly in eastern Ukraine, where Russia continues to make advances.

Russian troops took the city of Pryvillya, the U.K. Defense Ministry said Friday, as they try to surround Lysychansk, the last contested city in Ukraine’s Luhansk province.

Ukraine also is working to bolster its defenses around its biggest strongholds in Donetsk region, the cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, where Ukraine’s General Staff said Russia is regrouping and trying to improve its tactical position, ostensibly for an assault on the cities.

In keeping with Russia’s tactics of launching artillery strikes before advancing on new territory, forces have increased their shelling on Ukrainian troop positions around the two key cities, the Ukraine General Staff statement said.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com and Yuliya Chernova at yuliya.chernova@wsj.com

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