By Issam Abdallah
Russia missiles struck “critical infrastructure”, most likely a fuel depot, near Ukraine’s southern port city of Odesa in the early hours of Sunday but there were no casualties, officials in the city said.
Odesa, on the Black Sea coast, is a key Black Sea port and the main base for Ukraine’s navy. It has been a focus for Russian forces because if it is taken it would allow Moscow to build a land corridor to Transdniestria, a Russian-speaking breakaway province of Moldova which hosts Russian troops.
Russia’s defence ministry said missile strikes by its military destroyed an oil refinery and three fuel storage facilities near Odesa on Sunday, adding that the facilities were used by Ukraine to supply its troops near the city of Mykolaiv.
Vladyslav Nazarov, an officer of Ukraine’s South Operational Command, said on Telegram: “Russia began with a missile strike. The Odesa region was among the priority targets. The enemy continued its vile practice of strikes against critical infrastructure.”
“Smoke is visible in some areas of the city. All relevant systems and structures are working … No casualties reported.”
Vika, a local resident who declined to give her surname, said it was not “a good morning for Odesa”.
“We woke up to powerful explosions near our home. There was smoke, the children were in a panic, the windows were blown in … it was terrifying,” she told Reuters.
“‘Russian peace’, we are completely not happy that it has come and we ask you to leave.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour. Ukraine rejects that as a baseless pretext for a war of aggression.
Meanwhile Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will land in Odesa on Sunday, leading a humanitarian aid mission into the southern port city of Ukraine, the foreign ministry said.
The humanitarian aid will be handed to the city’s municipal authorities.
Dendias, 62, also plans to set up a continuous mechanism of distributing aid from Greece and to reopen Greece’s consulate in the city, the foreign ministry said.
Missiles struck Odesa in the early hours of Sunday, the city council said in an online post.
Dendias said last month he planned to lead a humanitarian aid mission to the besieged city of Mariupol in Ukraine, where thousands of ethnic Greeks live, but intense fighting there meant the destination was subsequently changed to Odesa.
At least 10 ethnic Greeks have been killed and several have been wounded since Russia started attacking Mariupol. More than 150 Greek citizens, vessel crews and ethnic Greeks have been evacuated from the region, according to the Greek government.
Ukraine’s troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its invasion.
Russia has depicted its drawdown of forces near Kyiv as a goodwill gesture in peace talks. Ukraine and its allies say Russia was forced to shift its focus to east Ukraine after suffering heavy losses.