Ukraine’s Odesa opens a few beaches for the first time since Russian invasion

ODESA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Several beaches in Ukraine’s Black Sea city of Odesa have officially opened for swimming for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion, although bathing is banned during air raid alerts, local officials said on Saturday.

Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port and naval base, was repeatedly attacked with missiles and drones and the sea was littered with hundreds of sea mines following the invasion in February last year.

For the safety of residents and after incidents of mines exploding on beaches, the coast was closed.

The decision to open the beaches was made jointly by the city’s civilian and military administrations, Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper said on Telegram messaging app.

He said the beaches would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Oleksandr, a lifeguard and a former diver who gave only his first name, said that an anti-mine net was placed in between two piers to prevent swimmers encountering shallow-water mines.

“The net will stop them. And they (mines) will also be visible from the shore under such weather conditions. Emergency workers will be notified, they will come to handle it,” he said.

The opening of the beaches has been a welcome respite from the war for people swimming and sunbathing.

“I have been dreaming of going to the beach and inhaling salty air. We have been missing it a lot. But safety is a top priority,” said Svitlana, a resident of the Odesa region.

(Reporting by Iryna Nazarchuk; Writing by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Frances Kerry)