Russia pummels Ukraine ports in third night of missile attacksThu, 20 Jul 2023 11:37:40 GMT

Russian missiles and drones hit the Ukrainian port of Odesa for a third “hellish” night in a row as Crimean authorities said a teenager had been killed in Kyiv’s latest attack on the peninsula.Russian forces also targeted Mykolaiv, another Black Sea port through which Ukrainian grain is exported, after Moscow’s exit from a key deal giving ships safe passage.At least two people died and more than 20 people were wounded after strikes on the port cities, officials said, posting images of buildings in flames with facades partially destroyed.The Chinese consulate in Odesa was also damaged, they said.Russia pounded Odesa and Mykolaiv with 19 cruise missiles and 19 drones, the Ukrainian air force said, after Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to exact revenge after an attack on a bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia.”A hellish night for our people!” said Sergiy Kruk, head of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.In Odesa, a man was found dead “under the rubble”, regional governor Oleg Kiper said. The body of another man was found in Mykolaiv, officials said.A number of residential buildings as well as stores, cafes and banks in the city were damaged, while some continued to burn in the hours after the strikes.Rescue teams were searching through the debris under pouring rain to find survivors after the Russians struck the city centre.Oleksiy Luganchenko, 72, said his sister had been killed. The body of her elderly husband had already been pulled out. “Who needs this war?” he said. “I’d told them they should leave and now they have died.”- ‘Putin is a demon’ – Iryna Personova, 65, said her apartment had been destroyed. “I’ve lived here for 40 years, there’s not a single military target nearby,” she told AFP. “Putin is just a demon, he’s evil.”A Red Cross employee, Arkady Dabatyan, said many civilians including children had been injured. “Unfortunately, we even provided aid to a 12-month baby,” he added.”Russian terrorists are continuing their attempts to destroy the life of our country,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.”Together we will get through this terrible time.”Governor Kiper said Ukraine’s air force shot down 12 Iranian drones and two Kalibr missiles in Odesa. “Unfortunately, it was not possible to destroy all the missiles,” he said, adding that supersonic missiles of the X-22 and “Onyx” types “are extremely difficult to destroy”.Apart from port infrastructure, the Russian forces also struck civilian targets including residential and administrative buildings, Kiper said.The building of China’s consulate general in Odesa was also damaged, he said.”The enemy is not paying attention to anything,” he added.A previous round of overnight strikes on Odesa destroyed 60,000 tonnes of grain meant for export, Kyiv said on Wednesday, with Zelensky accusing Moscow of “deliberately” targeting the supplies.Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year saw Black Sea ports blocked by warships until the United Nations and Turkey brokered a grain agreement in July 2022.The Kremlin exited the deal on Monday after months of complaining that provisions allowing the export of Russian food and fertilisers had not been honoured.The deal enabled the export of more than 32 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain over the last year, bringing relief to countries facing critical food shortages such as Sudan, Afghanistan and Yemen.Moscow said it would now consider cargo ships travelling to Ukraine through the Black Sea potential military targets.- Attacking civilian ships -A senior United States security official told AFP that Russia was considering attacking civilian ships on the Black Sea and putting the blame on Kyiv.National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge cited Russia’s release of a video showing its forces detecting and destroying an “alleged Ukrainian sea mine”.”Our information indicates that Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports,” he said.”We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine.”In Crimea, a Ukrainian drone strike damaged four administrative buildings and killed a teenage girl, the Moscow-installed governor said early Thursday. The strike appeared to be the latest attack by Kyiv on the key supply artery for Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.It came a day after a fire at a military site in Crimea forced authorities to evacuate civilians.This week Ukraine used waterborne drones to attack the Kerch bridge, the only bridge connecting Russia to Crimea.Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move not recognised by the international community.Kyiv has repeatedly said it plans to take back the peninsula. On the front, fighting is concentrated in eastern Ukraine, where Kyiv’s counteroffensive is so far struggling to break through Russia’s defensive lines. burs-as/fg