Russian forces shell vital Ukrainian port of Odessa, Mariupol plant

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Russian forces shelled the vital port of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to disrupt supply lines and arms deliveries. Across the southern coast, they’ve hammered a steel mill where Ukrainian fighters are denying Moscow full control of another critical port.

Days after the dramatic rescue of what some officials said were the last civilians trapped in the Mariupol plant, authorities said around 100 remained in the network of underground tunnels under bombardment. The strikes come as the gruesome toll of the war continues to loom, with Ukrainians claiming to have found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a northeast building that was destroyed weeks ago.

Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday that Russian forces had fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odessa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. One person was killed and five others injured, the army said.

Ukraine alleged that at least some of the munitions used dated back to the Soviet era, making them unreliable for targeting. But the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank that tracks the war, said Moscow used precision weapons against Odessa: Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic air-to-surface missiles.

Ukrainian, British and American officials warn that Russia is rapidly depleting its stockpile of precision weapons and may not be able to build more soon, raising the risk of more inaccurate rockets being delivered. used as the conflict continues.

Since President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to take kyiv at the start of the war, he has said he is focusing on the eastern industrial heartland of Donbas – but one general has suggested Moscow’s goals also include the separation of Ukraine from the entire Black Sea. coast.

That would give him a strip of territory that would link Russia to both the Crimean peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova.

Even if it does not achieve the goal of separating Ukraine from the Black Sea coast – and it appears to lack the forces to do so – the continued missile strikes on Odessa reflect the importance of the city as a strategic transportation hub. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted the city’s airport and claimed to have destroyed several batches of Western weapons that played a key role in the Ukrainian resistance.

Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, is also a major gateway for grain shipments, and Russia’s blockade is already threatening global food supplies. And the city is also a cultural gem, dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and the targeting also has a symbolic significance.

The strikes took place on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his country’s biggest patriotic holiday without being able to boast of major new battlefield successes. On Monday, he watched troops march in formation and military equipment parade in a Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945 .

A symbol of Russia’s difficulties is the city of Mariupol, where Russian forces have sought for weeks to end the resistance of Ukrainian defenders making their last stand.

Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the city’s mayor, estimated in a post on social media that at least 100 civilians remain trapped in underground bunkers at the Azovstal mill. Ukrainian and Russian authorities previously said a convoy over the weekend led a third evacuation of hundreds of civilians from the factory to safety in a government-controlled town.

Separately, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Tuesday that these civilians were people “whom the Russians did not select” to be evacuated. It was not immediately clear how the two officials knew this, and fighters still at the factory had yet to confirm this.

Earlier, Ukrainian and Russian officials said all civilians had been evacuated from the plant.

As Russian forces struggle to gain ground in Donbass, military analysts suggest striking Odessa could fuel concerns over southwestern Ukraine, forcing kyiv to station more forces there. This would drive them away from the eastern front as its military stage counter-offensives near the city of Kharkiv, aimed at pushing the Russians back across the border.

Kharkiv and its surroundings have come under sustained Russian attack since the war began in late February. Dozens of bodies were found in a five-storey building that collapsed in March in Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv, Oleh Synehubov, the head of the regional administration, said in a statement on Tuesday. social media post.

“This is another horrible war crime by the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!” says Synehubov.

Izyum sits on a key route to the eastern industrial region of Donbass, now at the center of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Synehubov did not specify where the building was located.

Also on Tuesday, Ukraine’s military warned that Russia could target the country’s chemical industries. The claim was not immediately explained in the report. But Russian bombings have already targeted oil depots and other industrial sites during the war.

Meanwhile, satellite photos showed intense fires in Russian-held territory in southern Ukraine on Monday. The cause of the fires was not immediately clear. However, Planet Labs images showed thick smoke rising east of Vasylivka, a town flanked by nature reserves.

Additionally, satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press showed two vessels off Ukraine’s Snake Island on Monday afternoon.

One of the ships seen in Planet Labs PBC footage appeared to be a landing craft. Ukraine has recently repeatedly struck Russian positions there, suggesting Russian forces may try to reassign or withdraw personnel from the Black Sea island.

In Washington, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure to revive the World War II “Lend-Lease” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to bolster kyiv and its Eastern European allies. ‘East.

Elsewhere on the diplomatic front, Western powers have continued to rally behind the beleaguered government in kyiv. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where the bodies of scores of civilians were found – some killed at close range – after Russian forces withdrew last month.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said it was speaking with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of the most pro-Putin leaders in the European Union, who has resisted calls from many in the bloc to ban oil imports from Russia.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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