Missiles rained down on Ukraine over the weekend, killing scores of civilians and injuring dozens in built-up areas, prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to accuse Russia of state “terrorism”.
The strikes on the southern resort town left 21 dead and dozens injured after missiles hit flats and a recreation center in Sergivka, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of the Black Sea port of Odessa.
Rockets hit residential properties in Solveyansk, in the heart of the Donbas region, killing a woman in her garden and injuring her husband, neighbors told AFP on Saturday, describing debris strewn across the neighborhood.
The witness said Friday’s strike was intended to spread over a large area before detonating cluster munitions, hitting buildings and people outdoors.
The attacks came after Moscow abandoned positions on the strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s offensive.
A 12-year-old boy was among the victims of the Sergivka attack, Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation, adding that around 40 people were injured and the death toll could rise.
“I emphasize: this was a deliberate, deliberate act of Russian terrorism – and not some kind of mistake or accidental missile strike,” Zelensky said.
“Three missiles hit an ordinary nine-story apartment building in which no one hid any weapons, any military equipment,” he said. “Common people, civilians, lived there.”
Germany was quick to condemn the violence.
“It is inhumane and cynical to talk again about the brutal way the Russian occupiers take civilian deaths in their stride and collateral damage,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.
At least 18 civilians were killed following global outrage when a Russian strike destroyed a shopping center in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine earlier this week.
President Vladimir Putin denied his forces were responsible for the attack, and Moscow did not immediately 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 though membership is years away.
“Our journey to membership should not take decades. We must speed up this road,” Zelenskyy told Ukraine’s parliament.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing Ukrainian lawmakers via video link, said membership was “on the horizon” but urged them to work on anti-corruption reforms.
Non-EU member Norway announced Friday $1 billion worth of aid to Kyiv, including reconstruction and weapons.
The Pentagon said it was sending a new weapons package worth $820 million, including two air defense systems and more ammunition for the Himars precision rocket launchers that the United States began supplying last month.
The soup was spit out
In a move to further chill relations between Kyiv and Moscow, the UN’s cultural agency has inscribed Ukraine’s tradition of cooking borscht soup on its list of endangered cultural heritage.
Ukraine usually considers nourishing soup made with beetroot as a national dish, although it is widely consumed in Russia, other former Soviet countries and Poland.
UNESCO said the decision was approved after a fast-track process prompted by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
We will “win both the borsch war and this war,” Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s culture minister, said in a telegram.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Hummus and pilaf are recognized as national dishes of several countries. Everything is subject to Ukrainization.”
On Thursday, Russian forces abandoned their positions on Snake Island, which became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the first days of the war, and set aside shipping lanes near the port of Odessa.
Russia’s Defense Ministry described the withdrawal as a “gesture of goodwill”, showing Moscow would not interfere with UN efforts to coordinate protected grain exports from Ukraine.
But on Friday evening, Kyiv accused Moscow of carrying out strikes using incendiary munitions outside the stone, saying the Russians could not “even honor their own declarations”.
In peacetime, Ukraine is a major agricultural exporter, but Russia’s aggression has damaged farmland and seized, leveled or blockaded Ukraine’s ports — raising concerns about food shortages, especially in poorer countries.
Western powers have accused Putin of using the intercepted harvest as a weapon to increase pressure on the international community and accuse Russia of stealing the grain.
Ukraine asked Turkey on Friday to detain a Russian-flagged cargo ship that Kyiv accused of leaving the Kremlin-held port of Berdyansk.
Although heavy fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, schools in the Ukrainian capital will reopen at the start of the school year on September 1 for the first in-person classes since lessons went online since the offensive began, officials said.
Olena Fidanyan, head of Kyiv’s Department of Education and Science, said the land around the schools would be checked for explosives and school bomb shelters would be restocked with the necessary materials.