At least 17 people were killed, and dozens injured early this morning when Russian missiles targeted a nine-story apartment complex and a resort facility near the Ukrainian Black Sea town of Odesa, according to Ukrainian authorities.
According to the Ukrainian emergency ministry, the missile impacted the building in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi at approximately 1:00 a.m. (2200 GMT on Thursday). In addition, it ignited a fire in the adjacent retail building.
A representative for the Odesa regional government, Serhiy Bratchuk, told Ukrainian state television that a rescue operation was underway as some individuals were still buried under the rubble after a portion of the building fell.
According to Bratchuk, another missile struck a resort complex, injuring multiple individuals.
It followed Russia's announcement yesterday that it would withdraw from Snake Island as a "gesture of goodwill" to demonstrate that Moscow was not hindering United Nations efforts to build a humanitarian corridor permitting grain shipments from Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the strategic victory as Ukraine said it had expelled Russian forces from the outcrop by artillery and missile assault.
"It does not guarantee security at this time. It does not guarantee that the adversary will not return," he added in his daily video address. "However, this severely restricts the actions of the occupants. We shall gradually drive them from our sea, our land, and our skies." In contrast, Ukrainian forces frantically clung to their positions in the city of Lysychansk.
Governor of the region Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television that Russian artillery fired in multiple directions while the Russian army advanced from numerous flanks.
"The occupiers' superiority in firepower is still very evident," Zelensky stated. They have mobilized their entire arsenal against us.
Since last week, when they captured Sievierodonetsk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets River after weeks of intense warfare, Russian forces have attempted to encircle Lysychansk.
Residents of Sievierodonetsk have emerged from their basements and are sorting through the debris of their destroyed city to rebuild.
"Nearly all of the city's infrastructure has been destroyed." Since May, we have been without gas, electricity, and water, a 65-year-old resident, told Reuters. "We are relieved that this has ended, and if reconstruction begins soon, we will return to a roughly normal life."
Support for Ukraine
Ukraine intends to inflict sufficient damage on Russia's advancing army despite ceding territory and suffering heavy losses in the eastern Donbas in recent weeks. It has launched a counterattack in the region's south.
Ukraine's Western allies have started providing armaments, and the Kyiv administration received a boost when the United States announced it would contribute an additional $800 million in military aid and weapons.
After a NATO conference in Madrid, US Vice President Joe Biden stated that Washington and its allies were unified in standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden told a news conference, "I do not know how it will end, but it will not end with Russia defeating Ukraine." We will continue to help Ukraine for as long as necessary.
Fire and smoke
Ukrainian forces in the "south" sector of the Joint Command of the Ukrainian armed forces reportedly killed 35 Russian soldiers and disabled two tanks and four armored vehicles, according to a statement posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian military today.
"The Ukrainian armed forces are not only holding defensive lines, but are also conducting successful operations to liberate occupied towns in the Kherson region from the invaders," Kriviy Rih regional governor Oleksandr Vilkul stated on Telegram, adding that Ukrainian troops have retaken Potyomkin.
After weeks in which the four-month-old conflict appeared to favor Russia, Ukraine retook Snake Island.
The Ukrainian military uploaded on Facebook what looked to be an aerial photograph of the island with many columns of black smoke emerging from it.
"The enemy evacuated the remnants of the garrison in a hurry using two speedboats and has likely left the island." Snake island is engulfed in flames, and explosions can be heard.
Oleksii Hromov, a Ukrainian brigadier general, stated that Ukrainian soldiers had not yet occupied the island but would soon.
The rocky outcrop overlooks the water lanes leading to Odesa, Ukraine's principal Black Sea port, where Russia is delaying food cargoes from one of the world's largest grain suppliers.
The lifting of the blockade has been a top priority for the West. Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, has accused Russia of purposely inflicting global starvation as "blackmail."
Moscow denies shutting the ports and attributes food shortages to Western sanctions, which it claims restrict its exports.
Yesterday in Moscow, the Indonesian leader Joko Widodo offered to serve as a diplomatic link between Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart. He expressed hope that global food and fertilizer supply lines might be restored.
"I appreciate President Putin's earlier statement that he will provide a security guarantee for food and fertilizer supplies originating from both Russia and Ukraine. This is excellent news," he stated.