A deadly attack on a Ukrainian resort town: Russians revenge the Snake Island

 

Ukraine

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

On 1 July 2022, Russian invaders launched three air-to-ground cruise missiles Kh-31 on Serhiivka, a small resort town in the Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky district, Odesa Oblast, about about 50 kilometers from the city of Odesa, killing 21 civilians, including two children, and injuring 38. Local authorities appeal for air defense and work to bring the Russian war criminals to justice. Zarina Zabrisky reported from the site.

Around 1 a.m., one missile hit a 9-story residential building with great explosive force, destroying a construction material store, a pharmacy, and a big part of the apartment complex, killing local residents. People were asleep and many did not hear the air raid.

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The second missile destroyed a resort hotel with a swimming pool. A group of children was scheduled to arrive the next morning for sports training. Their football coach was later found dead among other victims.

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The third missile hit the agricultural areas of the Bilhorod-Dnistrovsky district.

Overall, 21 civilians, including two children, were killed. 38 were injured, including 4 children. One child is in a coma in the hospital and one pregnant woman is wounded, too.

“An unprecedented level of violation of all possible norms and customs of war as Russia is constantly attacking our residential areas regardless of their closeness to the front line. […] There are no military objects close to this area,” said Yevhen Yenin, First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs in an interview.

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Possible retaliation

Some experts believe that the strike was a retaliation for the Russian troops’ retreat from Zmiinyi (Snake) Island as a result of the Ukrainian army’s attack. On the night of July 30, 2022, the Ukrainian army missile and artillery strikes destroyed Russian military equipment and forced the Russian military to explode their own MLRS unit and an air defense system.

According to Chief of the General Staff Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Ukrainian-made self-propelled howitzer Bohdan played an important role in the liberation of the island. As stated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the island was important for the Russian Fleet for maintaining control over the northwestern part of the Black Sea. President Zelenskyy stressed that Zmiinyi (Snake) Island is a strategic point, and its liberation significantly changes the situation in the Black Sea.

The Russian Federation authorities explained the decision to withdraw troops from the island as “a step of goodwill.”

“The depth of tragedy”

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Natalia Humeniuk, the head of the Joint Coordinating Press Center of the Defense Forces of the South of Ukraine, spoke to Euromaidan Press standing in front of the demolished building.

“One rocket hit a multi-story residential building with 150–160 people in it. The second rocket hit a resort hotel located directly on the coast, in the resort area, intended for family recreation. This year, a resort vacation is not happening here. This area is more like a war zone, a zone of combat operations, or a line of defense,” she said. “I would like the world to see and hear the depth of the tragedy that we are experiencing, [to see] that such strikes even in the rear regions of our country, where there are no combat operations, leave the deepest traces of war. We need support. We need air defense, we need a closed sky that will protect us from enemy missiles. We need as much long-range artillery as possible. We then will be able to push back the enemy faster and more effectively to his territory and leave our territories for ourselves.”

Eyewitness stories

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A 17 y.o. Vanya, a resident of the apartment block across the yard from the demolished building, told Euromaidan Press that he had stepped out to smoke a cigarette on the balcony and he saw the first explosion. He rushed to help his grandmother and managed to save his family. He spent the rest of the night rescuing victims and carrying dead bodies. “Why? I am only seventeen,” he said. In the morning, he was on the way to a construction store to buy materials to fix broken windows.

A 15 y.o. Dasha was asleep at her father’s place when her mother called her. The mother and a 4 y.o. brother were stuck under the rubble. Both survived but the boy is in a hospital with a concussion.

A neighbor came to identify the body of “aunt Klava,” her classmate’s mother. Her classmate is in Italy, fleeing the war. Recognizing Klava was challenging, due to the extreme damage to the body.

A retired couple said that they knew most people who perished in the attack.

“We did not expect the Russians to hit Serhiivka. We are a small town and everyone knows each other. We do not have anything of military significance here whatsoever. Just hotels and cafes, now empty.”

At a playground, a young boy climbed on a slide, without paying attention to the broken windows and ruined buildings around him. A young woman was cleaning a blossoming garden from glass and debris.

At a corner store by the sea, Tetiana said,

“It is ridiculous to hit Serhiivka. There is nothing here. Nothing. About ten apartment buildings, the rest is just private houses. Forgive me, I’d say it is idiotic.”

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Rescuers found and saved a dehydrated puppy lost in the rubble. Dogs barked inside the demolished building.

A beachside cafe owner Mikhail offered our crew homemade tea-rose petal liquor. His business just opened last year. Called “Svezhachok” (“Fresh stuff”), the cafe specialized in local seafood and produce. Due to the war, it stays closed but Mikhail is hopeful. “Come back after the Victory,” he said.

Punishment

“We are investigating yet another crime of the Russian Federation committed against the peaceful population of Ukraine,” said the war crime prosecutor working on site. “Prosecutors are managing the procedural side of investigation in accordance with our legislation, that is why we are here. And we are taking measures to organize a pre-trial investigation.”

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