Russian cruise missiles struck villages around southern Ukraine’s port city of Odesa early on Tuesday, hitting houses, a school and a community centre as Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Iran to discuss a UN-backed proposal to unblock exports of Ukrainian grain.
ussian forces fired seven Kalibr cruise missiles at the Odesa region.
The Russian Defence Ministry said strikes on the village of Bilenke had a legitimate military goal and “destroyed depots of ammunition for weapons supplied by the United States and European countries”.
A local official disputed Moscow’s claim and said six people were wounded.
“These strikes on peaceful people have one goal — to intimidate the population and the authorities and keep them in constant tension,” Serhiy Bratchuk, the speaker of the Odesa regional government, told Ukrainian television.
The infrastructure of the cities is being methodically destroyed by missile strikes, and the civilian population, cut off from bare necessities, suffers the mostDonetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko
In recent weeks the Russian military has targeted Odesa and parts of southern Ukraine where its troops captured cities earlier in the war amid indications that Ukraine was planning counterattacks to retake Russian-occupied areas.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces on the ground in eastern Ukraine are fighting to hold on to the declining territory under their control.
At least two civilians were killed and 15 wounded by Russian shelling across the country over the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office said.
Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman of the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said: “There remains a high level of threat of missile strikes throughout the territory of Ukraine.”
In eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province, which has been cut off from gas supplies and in part from water and power, one person was killed and two more wounded.
“The infrastructure of the cities is being methodically destroyed by missile strikes, and the civilian population, cut off from bare necessities, suffers the most,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
Mr Kyrylenko said four Russian strikes were carried out on the city of Kramatorsk. He urged civilians to evacuate. Some residents heeded the warning and loaded what belongings they could carry into a bus early on Tuesday to await evacuation.
While Russia may still make further territorial gains, their operational tempo and rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganisation and refitBritish MoD
The missile strikes came as the British military said it believes Russia is facing “increasingly acute” problems in keeping up its troop strength in its grinding war of attrition that began with the February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia “has struggled to sustain effective offensive combat power since the start of the invasion, and this problem is likely becoming increasingly acute” as Moscow seeks to conquer the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
The Mod added: “While Russia may still make further territorial gains, their operational tempo and rate of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganisation and refit.”
The recent attacks came as Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, visited Washington at the invitation of US first lady Jill Biden, meeting Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Mr Blinken assured her of the United States’ commitment to Ukraine, and commended her for her work with civilians dealing with trauma and other damage from the war.