Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AFP) – Russian forces have bombed the vital port of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent attempt to disrupt supply lines and arms shipments. On the other end of the southern coast, they have destroyed a steel plant where Ukrainian fighters are denying Moscow full control of another important port.
Days after the dramatic rescue of what some officials described as the last civilians trapped at the plant in Mariupol, authorities said around 100 people were still believed to be still in the network of underground tunnels under bombardment. The blows come in the form of the horrific losses of war It continued to take shape, with Ukrainians saying they had found the bodies of 44 civilians under the rubble of a building in the northeast that had been destroyed weeks earlier.
The Ukrainian military said, on Tuesday, that Russian forces had launched seven missiles the previous day from the air at the vital Black Sea port of Odessa.Hit a shopping mall and warehouse. The military said one person was killed and five wounded.
Ukraine has claimed that at least some of the munitions used date from the Soviet era, making them unreliable for targeting. But the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank that tracks the war, said Moscow had already used some precision weapons against Odessa: the Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic air-to-surface missiles.
Ukrainian, British and US officials warn that Russia is rapidly depleting its stockpile of precision weapons and may not be able to build more quickly, raising the risk that more inaccurate missiles will be used as the conflict drags on.
Since President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to seize Kyiv In the early days of the war, he said his focus was on the country’s eastern industrial heartland in Donbass — but one general noted that Moscow’s goals also included cutting Ukraine off its Black Sea coast.
That would give it a swathe of territory that would connect Russia with both Crimea, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway region of Moldova.
Even if he falls short of separating Ukraine from the Black Sea coast – and appears to lack the forces to do so – the continued missile strikes on Odessa reflect the city’s importance as a strategic transportation hub. The Russian army repeatedly targeted the city’s airport and claimed to have destroyed several batches of Western weapons that were essential to the Ukrainian resistance.
Odessa, the largest port in Ukraine, is also a major gateway for grain shipmentsRussia’s blockade is already threatening global food supplies. The city is also a cultural gem dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and the targeting holds symbolic significance as well.
The strikes came on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his country’s biggest national holiday Without being able to brag about the new major successes on the battlefield. On Monday, watch troops march in formation and military equipment roll for a Victory Day parade on Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945.
The city of Mariupol is a symbol of Russia’s difficulties, as Russian forces sought for weeks to end resistance from the Ukrainian defenders who had taken their last stand.
Petro Andryoshenko, an advisor to the city’s mayor, estimated in a social media post that at least 100 civilians were still trapped in underground bunkers at the Azovstal Mill. Ukrainian and Russian authorities said earlier that a convoy at the weekend had led to a third evacuation of hundreds of civilians from the mill to safety in a government-controlled city.
Separately, Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Tuesday that these civilians are people “not chosen by the Russians” for evacuation. It was not immediately clear how the two officials knew this, and the fighters at the plant have yet to confirm this.
Earlier, Ukrainian and Russian officials said all civilians had been evacuated from the plant.
With Russian forces struggling to gain ground in the Donbass, military analysts suggest that striking Odessa may serve to raise concerns about southwestern Ukraine, thus forcing Kyiv to deploy more troops there. This would pull them away from the Eastern Front while the army would launch counterattacks near the city of Kharkiv, with the goal of pushing the Russians back across the border there.
Kharkiv and the surrounding area have been under constant Russian attack since the start of the war in late February. Dozens of bodies were found in a five-storey building that collapsed on March of Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv, the head of the regional administration, Ole Sinhopov, said Tuesday in a message on social media.
“This is yet another horrific war crime by the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!” Sinhopov said.
Izyum lies on a major road to the eastern industrial region of Donbass, which is now the focus of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Senhopov did not mention the exact location of the building.
Also on Tuesday, the Ukrainian military warned that Russia could target the country’s chemical industries. The claim was not immediately explained in the report. But Russian bombing has previously targeted oil depots and other industrial sites during the war.
Meanwhile, satellite images showed intense fires in Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine on Monday. It was not immediately clear what caused the fires. However, images of Planet Labs showed thick smoke billowing east of Vasylivka, a city surrounded by nature reserves.
Satellite imagery analyzed by the Associated Press also showed two ships off Ukraine’s Snake Island on Monday afternoon.
One of the ships seen in the photos from Planet Labs PBC looked like a landing ship. Ukraine has repeatedly hit Russian positions there recently, suggesting that Russian forces may be trying to reassign or remove personnel from the Black Sea island.
In Washington, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure To restart the WWII-era “lending-and-lease” program that helped defeat Nazi Germany, prop up Kyiv and the Eastern European allies.
Elsewhere on the diplomatic front, Western powers continued to rally around the beleaguered Kyiv government. German Foreign Minister Annalina Barbock traveled to the Kiev suburb of Bucha, where the bodies of several civilians – some killed at short distance – were found after Russian troops withdrew last month.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said he was speaking with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of the European Union’s friendliest leaders, who has resisted calls from many members of the bloc to ban oil imports from Russia.
Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine