Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that Russia had bombed the vital port of Odessa, in an apparent attempt to disrupt western supply lines and arms shipments, as Ukraine’s foreign minister appeared to be signaling that the country might be expanding its war goals.
With the war now entering its eleventh week, As Kyiv obstructed Russian forces and even launched a counterattack, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba seemed to suggest that the country could only go beyond pushing Russia back into the areas it or its allies controlled on the day of the invasion on February 24.
The idea reflected Ukraine’s ability to thwart a larger and better-armed Russian army, surprising many who had expected a faster end to the conflict.
One of the most dramatic examples of Ukraine’s ability to prevent easy victories in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters kept hiding in a steel factory, depriving Russia of full control of the city. The regiment defending the plant said that Russian warplanes continued to bombard it.
In recent days, the United Nations and the Red Cross organized a rescue operation for what some officials described as the last civilians trapped in the factory. But two officials said Tuesday that around 100 were believed to be still in the complex’s underground tunnels. Others said it was impossible to confirm.
In another example of the horrific toll of the war, Ukrainian officials said they found the bodies of 44 civilians under the rubble of a building destroyed weeks ago in the northeastern city of Izyum.
Meanwhile, new UN figures said 14 million Ukrainians had been forced to leave their homes by the end of April, including more than 5.9 million who left the country.
In Washington, a senior US intelligence official testified on Tuesday that eight to 10 Russian generals had died in the war. Lt. Gen. Scott Perrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate committee that because Russia lacks non-commissioned officers, its generals have to go into combat zones and end up in dangerous positions.
Ukraine said Russian forces fired seven missiles on Monday at Odessa, to reach a shopping center and warehouse in the largest port in the country. The military said one person was killed and five wounded.
Pictures showed a burning building and wreckage – including tennis shoes – amid a heap of destruction in the Black Sea city. Mayor Gennady Trukhanov later visited the depot and said it had “nothing to do with military infrastructure or military objectives.”
Ukraine has claimed that at least some of the munitions used date from the Soviet era, making them unreliable for targeting. Ukrainian, British and US officials say Russia is rapidly depleting its stockpile of precision weapons, raising the risk of more inaccurate missiles being used as the conflict drags on.
Since President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to take Kyiv Early in the war, his focus shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of Donbass—but one general noted that Moscow’s goals also included cutting off Ukraine’s maritime access to both the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
That would also give it a swathe of territory connecting Russia with both Crimea, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Moscow region of Moldova..
Even if it falls short of separating Ukraine from the coast – and appears to lack the forces to do so – the continued missile strikes on Odessa reflect the city’s strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport and claimed to have destroyed several batches of Western weapons.
Odessa is also a major gateway for grain shipmentsThe blockade imposed by Russia is already threatening global food supplies. Moreover, the city is a cultural gem dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and targeting it also holds symbolic significance.
The Azov Regiment said the Russians in Mariupol also bombed the Azovstal steel plant, targeting the sprawling complex 34 times in the past 24 hours. She added that attempts to storm the factory also continued.
Petro Andryoshenko, an advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol, estimated on social media that at least 100 civilians were trapped in the plant. Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirilenko said those who remained were people “not chosen by the Russians” for evacuation.
The officials did not say how they knew civilians were still in the compound – a pit of tunnels and bunkers stretching over an area of 11 square kilometers (4 square miles).
The fighters of the Azov battalion published pictures of their wounded comrades inside the factory, including some amputated limbs. They said the wounded were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds covered with non-sterile dressings, and without the necessary medicines and even food.”
In its statement on Telegram, the regiment appealed to the United Nations and the Red Cross to evacuate the wounded soldiers to the territory under Ukrainian control.
Images cannot be independently verified.
With Russian forces struggling to make gains in Donbass, military analysts suggest that striking Odessa could raise concerns about southwestern Ukraine, thus forcing Kyiv to deploy more troops there. This would pull them away from the Eastern Front as the Ukrainian army launches counter-attacks near the northeastern 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 beginning of the war. In recent weeks, horrific images have witnessed the atrocities From those battles, where charred and mutilated corpses littered one street.
Ole Senhopov, head of the regional administration, said dozens of bodies were found in a five-story building that collapsed in March in Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv.
Meanwhile, Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, appeared to be expressing increased confidence – and expanded goals – amid Russia’s faltering offensive.
“In the first months of the war, victory seemed to us to be the withdrawal of Russian troops to the positions they had occupied before February 24 and the payment of the price for the damage inflicted,” Kuleba said in an interview with the Financial Times. “Now if we are strong enough on the military front, and win the Battle of Donbass, which will be decisive for the dynamics following the war, of course our victory in this war will be the liberation of the rest of the territory.”
The comments seem to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities: Many analysts acknowledge that although Russia is unable to make quick gains, Ukraine’s military is not strong enough to keep the Russians out.
In other developments, Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it would halt Russian shipments through its hub at Novopskov in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. It said the center handles about a third of Russian gas transiting through the country to Western Europe, although state-owned Russian natural gas giant Gazprom put the figure at around a quarter.
The operator, which also complained of interference along the route last month, said it would halt the flow from Wednesday due to interference from “occupying forces”, apparently including gas withdrawals. She said Russia may reroute the affected shipments through Ukraine’s other main hub, Sudja, in the northern part of the Ukraine-controlled country.
In the United States, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure on Monday To reboot the WWII-era “lending-and-lease” program that helped defeat Nazi Germany, prop up Kyiv and its allies.
Western powers continued to rally around the embattled government of Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Annalina Barbuk traveled to the Bucha suburb of KyivWhere are the corpses of civilians – Some of them bound, burned or shot at close range – were found after the withdrawal of Russian troops.
“We owe it to the victims that we not only memorialize them here, but that we hold the perpetrators accountable,” she said.
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, Kelvin Chan in London, and AP staff worldwide contributed.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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