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At least 21 dead after Russian missiles strike coastal city in south Ukraine

Missile damage to a residential building near Odesa, Ukraine, is seen on Friday. Photo courtesy of State Emergency Service of Ukraine/EPA-EFE
Missile damage to a residential building near Odesa, Ukraine, is seen on Friday. Photo courtesy of State Emergency Service of Ukraine/EPA-EFE

July 1 (UPI) -- At least 21 people were killed Friday when a Russian missile attack targeted the key southern Ukraine port city of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine's military issued an emergency alert for Odessa residents, advising them to seek shelter after three large explosions were heard early Friday.

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A military spokesman in the city, Sergei Bratchuk, said the assault was launched from the direction of a strategic Russian aircraft in the Black Sea.

"One rocket hit a nine-story residential building, the other in a recreation center in the Belgorod-Dniester region," Bratchuk said according to The Guardian.

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Ukrainian officials said 38 people were injured in the strikes, which landed in the small southern village of Sergiivka, just outside Odessa.

Moldovan Health Minister Ala Nemerenco said a children's rehabilitation center operated by his country in Sergiivka also was hit in the Russian strike, killing an employee and injuring five.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia fired three projectiles in the attack.

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"Terror is a common tactic of Russia," he said, according to The Washington Post. "First, they cover their criminal actions with an 'act of goodwill' and then launch rocket attacks on our peaceful cities."

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Odessa is located in far southwestern Ukraine on the Black Sea -- which is hundreds of miles away from where Russian forces have been focusing most attacks recently, in the Donbas. The city is located about 275 miles to the south of Kyiv and about 90 miles west of Kherson.

Friday's attacks came soon after Ukraine began celebrating a military victory in Snake Island, a small but strategically positioned island in the Black Sea that Russia captured months ago and was using as a staging area.

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"It significantly changes the situation in the Black Sea," Zelensky said, according to CNN. "Step by step, we will drive them out of our sea, our land and our sky."

Meanwhile, Russian and Ukrainian officials said Friday that Moscow has gained control of an important oil refinery in Lysychansk in the Luhansk region after intense fighting.

Ukrainian officials said, however, that Russia has achieved only "partial success" at the refinery. Moscow's military campaign has pushed to capture the city after forcing Ukrainian troops to retreat from Severodonetsk after weeks of shelling.

Russian forces also claimed on Friday to have captured the northwest Donbas region of Pryvilla.

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