Ukrainian teenager describes recovering bodies from apartment block after Russian missiles hit Odesa

Correspondent John Ray reports on the tireless efforts of rescue workers and residents, including a 17-year-old boy who had to carry neighbours' bodies from the destroyed apartment block

A 17-year-old has described having to haul his neighbours' bodies from an apartment block, after Russian missiles targeted a residential area in Odesa overnight.

According to Ukrainian authorities, at least 21 people died - including an 11-year-old boy, his mother, and a children's football coach. Thirty-eight others, including six children and a pregnant woman, were reported hospitalised. 

"I saw a woman, she was very, very badly hurt. Then I carried two, three, four corpses out," Ivan Martinyul told ITV News.

"It was a nightmare. I used to think the war was just fireworks, but now I see - it's horror."

Ukrainian Emergency Service, first responders searching the damaged residential building in Odesa. Credit: Ukrainian Emergency Service/AP

The attack came just a day after Russian forces withdrew from the strategic position on Snake Island. Videos showcased that charred remains of the Odesa buildings were all that was left after the Russian missile strikes.

A rescue operation was launched after authorities feared more people could be buried under the rubble.

Ukrainian news reports said the target of the missile attack was a multi-story apartment building and a recreational area.

The assault comes after Russian forces pulled out from Snake Island on Thursday, potentially easing the threat to Odesa, it was initially thought.

But they have kept pushing to encircle the last stronghold of resistance in the eastern province of Luhansk.

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The Kremlin portrayed the exit from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture.”

Ukraine’s military claimed it forced the Russians to flee in two small speedboats following a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and missile strikes. The exact number of troops was not disclosed.

Snake Island sits along a busy shipping lane. Russia had taken control of it in the opening days of the war in the apparent hope of using it as a staging ground for an assault on Odesa.

Large numbers of civilians were killed in Russian bombardments earlier in the war, including at a hospital, a theatre used as a shelter, and a train station.

Until this week, mass casualties involving residents appeared to become less frequent as Moscow concentrated on capturing eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

Russian missiles struck the Kyiv region last weekend after weeks of relative calm around the capital, and an airstrike Monday on a shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk killed at least 19 people.