ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Russia has shelled the vital port of Odessa in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, as they announced they had found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a northeast building that was destroyed weeks ago.
Meanwhile, a Ukrainian official said at least 100 civilians remain trapped in a steel mill in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters are fighting a last stand.
The 44 bodies were found in a five-storey building that collapsed in March in Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the city of Kharkiv, which came under sustained Russian attack. since the beginning of the war at the end of February.
“This is another horrible war crime by the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!” said Oleh Synehubov, the head of the regional administration, in a social media post announcing the deaths.
Izyum sits on a key route to the eastern industrial region of Donbass, now at the center of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Synehubov did not specify where the building was located.
Earlier, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odessa., hitting a mall and a warehouse. One person was killed and five others injured, the army said.
Ukraine alleged that at least some of the munitions used dated back to the Soviet era, making them unreliable for targeting. Ukrainian, British and American officials warn that Russia is rapidly depleting its stockpile of precision weapons and may not be able to build more quickly, raising the risk of more inaccurate rockets being used as the conflict continues.. This could lead to greater damage and more civilian deaths.
But the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank that tracks the war, said Moscow used precision weapons against Odessa: Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic air-to-surface missiles.
The use of advanced guided missiles allows Russia to fire from a distance without being exposed to possible anti-aircraft fire.
The strikes took place on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his country’s biggest patriotic holiday without being able to boast of major new battlefield successes.. On Monday, he watched troops march in formation and military equipment parade in a Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945 .
Many Western analysts expected Putin to use the VE Day holiday to trumpet some sort of victory in Ukraine or announce an escalation, but he did neither. Instead, he sought to re-justify war as a necessary response to what he described as a hostile Ukraine.
Putin has long bristled at NATO’s eastward advance into the former Soviet republics. Ukraine and its Western allies have denied that the country poses a threat.
“The danger was increasing day by day,” Putin said. “Russia gave a preventive response to the aggression. It was forced, timely and the only correct decision.
Intense fighting also raged in eastern Ukraine, including at a steel plant in Mariupolwhere Russian forces sought to take the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance.
One of the Ukrainian fighters who stood at the steel plant said they were still defending the city. Valeri Paditel, who heads the border guards in the Donetsk region, said the fighters were “doing everything to make those who will defend the city proud in the future”.
Hundreds of civilians holed up for weeks with the fighters have been evacuated in recent days. But Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said in a social media post on Tuesday that “apart from the army, there are at least 100 civilians left” at the sprawling factory, which has miles of tunnels underground. At one point, Ukrainian and Russian authorities said all civilians had left the factory.
Andryushchenko said Russian forces continue to shell the factory with heavy weapons and “attempts to storm (the factory) from the ground remain unsuccessful.”
Ukraine’s military warned on Tuesday that Russia could target the country’s chemical industries. The claim was not immediately explained in the report. But Russian bombings have already targeted oil depots and other industrial sites during the war.
Additionally, satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press showed two vessels off Ukraine’s Snake Island on Monday afternoon.
One of the ships seen in Planet Labs PBC footage appeared to be a landing craft. Ukraine has recently repeatedly struck Russian positions there, suggesting Russian forces may try to reassign or withdraw personnel from the Black Sea island.
After surprisingly fierce resistance, the Kremlin was forced to abandon its efforts to storm kyiv early in the war.Moscow’s forces focused on capturing Donbass.
But the fighting there has been back and forth, village by village. Some analysts have suggested that Putin could declare the fighting a war, not just a “special military operation”, and order a national mobilization, with a call for reserves, to fight a protracted conflict.
In the end, he gave no signal as to the direction of the war or how he might intend to save her. Specifically, he left unanswered the question of whether or how Russia will mobilize more forces for a continued war.
“Without concrete steps to build a new force, Russia cannot fight a long war, and time is starting to turn on the failure of its military in Ukraine,” tweeted Phillips P. O’Brien, professor of studies. strategies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Nigel Gould Davies, former British Ambassador to Belarus, said: “Russia did not win this war. He begins to lose it.
He said that unless Russia makes a major breakthrough, “the balance of advantages will shift steadily in Ukraine’s favor, especially as Ukraine gains access to increasing volumes of military equipment. more and more sophisticated Westerners”.
As Putin laid a wreath in Moscow, the air raid sirens sounded again in the Ukrainian capital. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his own Victory Day speech that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.
“Very soon there will be two Victory Days in Ukraine,” he said in a video. He added: “We are fighting for freedom, for our children, and therefore we will win.”
An adviser to Zelenskyy interpreted Putin’s speech as indicating that Russia has no interest in escalating the war through the use of nuclear weapons or direct engagement with NATO.
In Washington, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure to revive the World War II “Lend-Lease” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to bolster kyiv and its Eastern European allies.
Russia has about 97 battalion battlegroups in Ukraine, mostly in the east and south, a slight increase from last week, according to a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon assessment. Each unit has about 1,000 soldiers, according to the Pentagon.
The official said that overall the Russian effort in Donbass has not made significant progress in recent days and continues to face strong resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Satellite photos showed intense fires in Russian-held territory in southern Ukraine on Monday. The cause of the fires was not immediately clear. However, Planet Labs images showed thick smoke rising east of Vasylivka, a town flanked by nature reserves.
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, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine