Russia’s ambitions to overtake southern Ukraine appeared to grow on Tuesday when authorities reported the use of hypersonic missiles over the Black Sea city of Odesa and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he called on world powers to break a Russian blockade on his nation’s ports.
Ukraine said firefighters were fighting fires in Odesa early Tuesday after seven missiles hit, including targets a shopping mall and warehouse, killing at least one and wounding five. The video posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian army showed rescue groups surrounded by smoking rubble.
Sergey Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional army, said in an update that a separate attack by three Kinzhal hypersonic missiles had also hit “tourist” locations in Odesa.
The Kinzhal is more destructive than conventional missiles because its speed, several times that of sound, allows it to better evade anti-missile systems. Their use on Odesa could not be verified, although Russia said it launched the new weapons in March on targets in western Ukraine.
Citing the key role Odesa, in southwestern neighboring Moldova, plays in global agricultural trade, Zelensky said in a video that the grain export shortage would worsen if the attacks continued and Western powers did not place. end to Russia blocking of Ukrainian ports. Nations around the world are heavily dependent on wheat from the fertile Black Sea region, which some call it the “bread basket of Europe”.
“For the first time in decades there is no habitual movement of the merchant fleet, no normal functioning port in Odesa. This has probably never happened in Odesa since World War II,” Zelensky said.
“Without our agricultural exports, dozens of countries in different parts of the world are already on the verge of food shortages. And over time, the situation can become downright dire. “
On the other side of Ukraine, in the southeast, officials said Tuesday that Russian attacks continued to hit the port city of Mariupol, where dramatic scenes have occurred in the last week of civilians rescued by a vast steel mill where they and a group of fighters were taking refuge.
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor, said on Telegram that he believed 100 people remained in the underground tunnels of the Azovstal steel complex. Andryushchenko said the area was still under fire on Tuesday.
The situation at the plant was also difficult to ascertain for the Ukrainian authorities, who previously said they believed that all or most of the civilians had been evacuated.
Mariupol, under almost total Russian control, was the site on Monday of a Russian military observation of Victory Day, a Russian holiday that marks the Soviet triumph over the Nazis in World War II.
Some analysts had predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who chaired a highly orchestrated celebration in Moscow complete with military marches and music, would use the opportunity to declare war on Ukraine. Instead, he lashed out at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United States, saying that Russia was responding to the “aggression” of Western powers.
In Mariupol, Andryushchenko said that while Russian troops held celebration drills in the city, “no excitement or joy on the street was particularly evident. … Something went wrong with the holidays because Mariupol is Ukraine, not Moscow. “
With Moscow declaring victory over Mariupol – which would give it a piece of a desired land corridor linking Russia, Crimea and western Ukraine – and military gains somehow blocked along the eastern Donbas battlefront, US and British military analysts say attacks on Odesa and the west could escalate as a way to draw Ukrainian firepower from the east.
In the northeast of the nation around Kharkiv, it has been under almost daily attack Since the war began, but remains under Ukrainian control, a local leader said on Tuesday that the bodies have still been recovered from the March attacks.
Regional administrator Oleh Sinegubov said in a Telegram post that dozens of bodies were found in Izyum in the rubble of a residential building that collapsed under missile fire in March. Izyum is located approximately 75 miles from Kharkiv which is the second largest city in Ukraine.
“This is another horrific war crime of the Russian occupiers against the civilian population,” Sinegubov said.
The anti-aircraft sirens would also sound Tuesday in Luhansk and Dnipro.
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In a social media post, Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the region has been hit by Russian attacks 22 times in the last day.
“The Russians fired en masse on all possible routes outside the region,” Haidai said.
The war, which began on February 24, caused nearly 6 million Ukrainians Flee for other nationsthe United Nations said Tuesday. Millions more have been internally displaced.
King reported from Zhytomyr and Kaleem from London.