Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of engaging in state “terror” as he blamed Moscow for missile strikes on a southern resort town that left 21 dead and dozens wounded.
Missiles slammed into an apartment building and a recreation centre in the town of Sergiyvka about 80 kilometers (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 attacks took place a day after Moscow abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s invasion.
The dead included a 12-year-old boy, Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation, adding that some 40 people have been injured and that the death toll could rise.
“I emphasize: this is an act of deliberate, purposeful Russian terror– and not some kind of mistake or an accidental missile strike,” Zelensky said.
“Three missiles hit a regular nine-storey apartment building, in which nobody was hiding any weapons, any military equipment,” he added.
“Regular people, civilians, lived there.”
Sergiy Bratchuk, Odessa deputy chief of district, said on Ukrainian television the strikes were launched by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea and fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles.
Germany swiftly condemned the violence.
“The cruel manner in which the Russian aggressor 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 attacks 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 his forces were responsible for that attack and Moscow made no immediate comment on the Odessa strikes.
On Friday, Zelensky hailed a new chapter in its relationship 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 decades. We should make it down this road quickly,” Zelensky told Ukraine’s parliament.
The president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, addressing Ukrainian lawmakers by video link, said membership was “within reach” but urged them to work on 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.
And the Pentagon said it was sending a new armament package worth $820 million, including two air defence systems and more ammunition for the Himars precision rocket launchers the United States began supplying last month.