Ukrainian President Denounces Missile Strike On Odessa Port

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he speaks during a press conference following his talks with the President of the European Council in Kyiv on April 20, 2022.
Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

 

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced a missile strike on the port of Odessa as “Russian barbarism” just a day after the warring sides struck a deal to resume cereal exports blocked by the conflict.

The Ukrainian military said its air defences had shot down two cruise missiles but two more hit the port Saturday, threatening the landmark agreement hammered out over months of negotiations aimed at relieving a global food crisis.

Zelensky said the strikes on Odessa showed Moscow could not be trusted to keep its promises.

“Today’s Russian missile attack on Odessa, on our port, is a cynical one, and it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself,” Zelensky said in his nightly address, adding dialogue with Moscow was becoming increasingly untenable.

“This apparent Russian barbarism brings us even closer to obtaining the very weapons we need for our victory,” Zelensky added.

The strike came a day after Moscow and Kyiv agreed on a deal brokered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations chief Antonio Guterres.

Odessa is one of three export hubs designated in the agreement and Ukrainian officials said grain was being stored in the port at the time of the strike, although the food stocks did not appear to have been hit.

Guterres — who presided over the signing ceremony on Friday — “unequivocally” condemned the attack, his deputy spokesman said and urged all sides to stick to the deal.

“These products are desperately needed to address the global food crisis and ease the suffering of millions of people in need around the globe,” he said.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell directly blamed Russia for the strikes.

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of (the) Istanbul agreements is particularly reprehensible and again demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law and commitments,” he said.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the attack was “absolutely appalling” and “completely unwarranted”.

The United States also “strongly condemned” the attack, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying it “casts serious doubt on the credibility of Russia’s commitment to yesterday’s deal”.

There was no official comment from Moscow, but Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Russia had denied carrying out the attack.

“The Russians told us that they had absolutely nothing to do with this attack and they were looking into the issue very closely,” Akar said in comments to state news agency Anadolu.

“We will continue to fulfil our responsibilities under the agreement we reached yesterday,” he added.

Regional governor Maksym Marchenko said the strikes left people wounded and damaged port infrastructure in Odessa, without specifying the number or severity of the injuries.

 20 million tonnes of wheat

A farmer stands as he collects wheat near Mykolaiv, on July 21, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

 

The first major accord between the countries since Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine aims to ease the “acute hunger” the UN says an additional 47 million people are facing because of the war.

Ukraine at the signing warned it would conduct “an immediate military response” should Russia violate the accord and attack its ships or stage an incursion around its ports.

Zelensky said responsibility for enforcing the deal fell to the UN, which along with Turkey is a co-guarantor of the agreement.

The deal includes points on running Ukrainian grain ships along safe corridors that avoid known mines in the Black Sea.

Huge quantities of wheat and other grain have been blocked in Ukrainian ports by Russian warships and the mines Kyiv laid to avert a feared amphibious assault.

Zelensky said that around 20 million tonnes of produce from last year’s harvest and the current crop would be exported under the agreement, estimating the value of Ukraine’s grain stocks at around $10 billion.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Kremlin state media he expected the deal to start working “in the next few days” although diplomats expect grain to only start fully flowing by mid-August.

 Strikes on central Ukraine

Russia is trying to fight deeper into the eastern Donetsk region after securing full control of neighbouring Lugansk.

The US State Department on Saturday said two Americans had died in the area, without saying whether the pair were in the country for combat purposes.

Russian missile strikes on railway infrastructure and a military airfield in the central area of Kirovograd on Saturday also killed at least three people and wounded 16 more, regional governor Andriy Raikovych said.

At least one of the dead was a serviceman, he said earlier — a rare admission of a military casualty as combat deaths have been closely guarded by both sides.

Russia also pursued an artillery campaign over Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, with attacks wounding one woman, the presidency said. An elderly farmer was killed in further shelling in Sumy, northwest of Kharkiv.

Two others, including a teenager, were wounded in strikes on Mykolaiv, the largest city under Ukrainian control near Russian-occupied Kherson and the southern front, which has been shelled persistently since the beginning of the invasion.

-AFP

Strikes Kill 18 In Ukraine’s Odessa

Rescue workers walk past debris and carsunder ruins in front of the shopping and entertainment center in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa on May 10, 2022, destroyed after Russian missiles strike late on May 9, 2022.
Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP

 

 

Missile strikes killed 18 people and wounded dozens in Ukraine’s Odessa region Friday, a day after Russian troops abandoned positions on a strategic island in a major setback to the Kremlin’s invasion.

The news came after NATO leaders wrapped up a summit in Madrid, with US President Joe Biden announcing $800 million in new weapons for Ukraine.

“We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the alliance are going to stick with Ukraine, as long as it takes to make sure they are not defeated by Russia,” he said.

The missiles were fired early Friday, hitting an apartment building and recreation centre about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Black Sea port of Odessa, which has become a strategic flashpoint in the conflict.

Ukrainian emergency services initially said 17 people were killed and 30 wounded in both attacks. Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official at the Ukrainian presidency, later wrote on Telegram that the death toll had risen to 18, including two children.

The strikes, in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, were launched by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea, said Odessa military administration spokesman Sergiy Bratchuk.

“The worst-case scenario played out and two strategic aircraft came to the Odessa region,” he said in a TV interview, adding they had fired “very heavy and very powerful” missiles.

Earlier this week, there was global outrage when a Russian strike destroyed a shopping centre in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing at least 18 civilians. Putin has denied Moscow’s forces were responsible.

– Anti-corruption reforms –
Friday’s attacks came a day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on Snake Island, off the coast of Odessa.

The island had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the first days of the war, when the rocky outcrop’s defenders told a Russian warship to “go f*ck yourself” after it called on them to surrender — an incident that spurred a defiant meme.

It was also a strategic target, sitting aside shipping lanes near the port of Odessa. Russia had attempted to install missile and air defence batteries while under fire from drones.

Ukraine was recently granted “candidate status” by the European Union as it pushes to join the bloc, although membership is likely still years away.

On Friday, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told Ukraine’s parliament that membership was “within reach” but urged them to press forward with anti-corruption reforms.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile announced Ukraine had begun exporting electricity to the EU, via Romania, as fears grow of an energy crisis in Europe due to reduced Russian gas deliveries.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared surging diplomatic tensions to the Cold War.

“As far as an Iron Curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending… The process has begun,” he told reporters.

– Snake Island –
There was a glimmer of hope however, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he had given Russian President Vladimir Putin a message from Zelensky.

It came after Widodo visited both Moscow and Kyiv. Neither side has revealed what was in the note.

Zelensky said Russia’s decision to abandon Snake Island “changes the situation in the Black Sea considerably”.

“It does not yet guarantee security. It does not yet guarantee that the enemy will not return. But it already considerably limits the actions of the occupiers,” he said in his daily address.

The Russian defence ministry described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organise protected grain exports from Ukraine.

In peacetime, Ukraine is a major agricultural exporter, but Russia’s invasion has damaged farmland and seen Ukraine’s ports seized, razed or blockaded — sparking concerns about food shortages, particularly in poor countries.

Western powers have accused Putin of using the trapped harvest as a weapon to increase pressure on the international community, and Russia has been accused of stealing grain.

On Thursday, a ship carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain sailed from Ukraine’s occupied port of Berdyansk, said the regional leader appointed by the Russian occupation forces.

– Donbas under fire –
Evgeny Balitsky, the head of the pro-Moscow administration, said Russia’s Black Sea ships “are ensuring the security” of the journey, adding that the port had been de-mined.

The conflict in Ukraine dominated the NATO summit in Madrid this week, as the alliance officially invited Sweden and Finland to join, and Biden announced new deployments of US troops, ships and planes to Europe.

Russian missiles have continued to rain down elsewhere in Ukraine, with the city of Lysychansk in the eastern Donbas region coming under sustained bombardment.

Capturing the city would allow the Russians to push deeper in the Donbas, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv after their February invasion.

Sergiy Gaiday — governor of the Lugansk region, which includes Lysychansk — said the city continued to face heavy shelling.

“Residents of Lysychansk barely leave their basements and homes,” he wrote on Telegram, adding fires had broken out in houses and shopping malls.

The Russians had taken control of parts of the city’s oil refinery, he said.

Russia Targets Ukraine’s Odessa As UN Seeks Ceasefire

Smoke rises after an attack by Russian army in Odessa, on April 3, 2022. – Air strikes rocked Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea port Odessa early Sunday morning, according to an interior ministry official, after Kyiv had warned that Russia was trying to consolidate its troops in the south. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

 

Explosions rocked the strategic Ukrainian port city of Odessa on Sunday, as a top UN official headed to Moscow to try to secure a “humanitarian ceasefire” and after evidence emerged of possible civilian killings around Kyiv.

Thick plumes of black smoke rose from several areas on the historic Black Sea port, after air strikes shook the city at about 6:00 am (0300 GMT) but the Ukrainian army said no one was killed.

Russia’s defence ministry confirmed the attack, saying “high-precision sea and air-based missiles destroyed an oil refinery and three storage facilities for fuel and lubricants”.

The ministry claimed the targets were supplying fuel to Ukrainian troops.

Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said: “Fires were reported in some areas. Some of the missiles were shot down by air defence.”

The strikes came with Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias expected in the city to deliver humanitarian aid to the municipal authorities.

UN chief Antonio Guterres’ humanitarian envoy Martin Griffiths was meanwhile seeking a halt in the fighting, which Ukraine estimates has left 20,000 people dead, and forced more than 10 million to flee for their lives.

He will fly on to Kyiv from Moscow. Both Russia and Ukraine have agreed to meet him, Guterres said on Saturday.

– Mass graves –

In the ravaged city of Bucha, just outside the Ukrainian capital, the bodies of nearly 300 civilians were found in mass graves after Russian troops withdrew.

AFP reporters saw at least 20 bodies, all in civilian clothing, strewn across a single street. One had his hands tied behind his back with a white cloth, and his Ukrainian passport left open beside his body.

“All these people were shot,” Bucha’s mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said, adding that 280 other bodies had been buried in mass graves in the town. “These are the consequences of Russian occupation.”

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was “appalled by atrocities in Bucha and other towns in Ukraine” and promised the perpetrators would be held to account before an international war crimes tribunal.

The International Criminal Court has already opened a probe into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, and several Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have accused Russia’s Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has also alleged that Russian soldiers planted mines and other booby traps as they withdraw from northern Ukraine.

In a video address Saturday, he warned returning residents of tripwires and other dangers.

“We are moving forward. Moving carefully and everyone who returns to this area must also be very careful,” he said.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to raise economic pressure on Russia, the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania announced Saturday that they had stopped all imports of Russian natural gas.

– ‘Verbal agreement’ –

Pope Francis, on a visit to the Mediterranean island of Malta, issued a thinly veiled attack on Putin for ordering troops into Ukraine, and on Sunday made a plea for refugees fleeing the conflict to be welcomed.

The pontiff has not ruled out a visit to Kyiv.

On talks to end the fighting, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia told local television channels that Russia had “verbally” accepted most of Kyiv’s proposals — except on the issue of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Among the agreed-upon points was that a referendum on Ukraine’s neutral status “will be the only way out of this situation”, Arakhamia said.

He said any meeting between Zelensky and Putin would “with a high probability” take place in Turkey, which has sought to mediate the conflict.

As Russian forces withdraw from some northern areas, Moscow appears to be focusing on eastern and southern Ukraine, where it already holds vast swathes of territory.

UK Defence Intelligence said early Sunday that Russian air activity in the last week had been concentrating on southeastern Ukraine, “likely as a result of Russia focusing its military operations in this area”.

But it said Russia was struggling to find and destroy air systems, which has “signficantly affected their ability to support the advance of their ground forces”.

In his latest video message, Zelensky said Russian troops wanted to seize the disputed Donbas region and the south of Ukraine, promising “to defend our freedom, our land and our people”.

But Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak warned on social media that “without heavy weapons we won’t be able to drive (Russia) out”.

Ukraine authorities nevertheless offered citizens elements of good news Saturday in claiming progress against the Russians, more than five weeks after the start of Europe’s worst conflict in decades.

“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” deputy defence minister Ganna Maliar said on Facebook, referring to towns that have been heavily damaged or destroyed by fighting.

– Resistance –

Russia’s efforts to consolidate its hold on southern and eastern areas of Ukraine have been hampered by the resistance of Mariupol despite devastating attacks lasting weeks.

At least 5,000 residents have been killed in the besieged southern port city, according to officials, while the estimated 160,000 who remain face shortages of food, water and electricity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said its team left for Mariupol on Saturday to make another attempt at conducting an evacuation, after being forced to turn back the day before.

In another southern city, Enerhodar, which is under Russian control, a Ukrainian official said Russian forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, injuring four.

Zelensky has thanked the residents of Enerhodar, the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which had been seized by Russian troops in early March, for their bravery.

“When people protest, and the more they protest, the harder it is for the occupiers to destroy us, to destroy our freedom,” Zelensky said.

In Russia, hundreds of people gathered across the country Saturday to protest against the war in Ukraine. Police detained 211 people in several cities, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests.

AFP

14 Missing In Deadly Ukraine Fire

Firefighters extinguish a fire that erupted in the building of the College of Economics, Law and Tourism Business, in Odessa on December 4, 2019. One person was killed and another fourteen were reported missing after a fire broke out at a college building in the Ukrainian southern port of Odessa, authorities said. PHOTO: Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP

 

Fourteen people remain missing from a fire that claimed a student’s life in Ukraine’s southern port city of Odessa, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

The fire broke out in a college building in central Odessa on Wednesday, killing a 16-year-old female student and injuring 27 others.

The blaze had been contained by Thursday morning, but dozens of firefighters were still combing through the partly destroyed walls of the six-storey building.

Zelensky wrote in a Facebook post: “We all hope that of the 14 missing people, as many as possible will be found safe and sound. But I do not want to deceive anyone — there may be more victims.”

Seven firefighters were among the injured and five people were in a serious condition.

“We all are praying” for them, said Zelensky, 41. “We know that doctors are doing everything possible to save them. And impossible too.”

The authorities have opened a probe into the blaze.

The mayor of Odessa said the city would observe two days of mourning on Thursday and Friday.

AFP