Russia and Ukraine differ on Odessa missile strike
Russian forces have destroyed a logistics terminal in Odessa that held a large batch of foreign weapons, Moscow announced on Saturday amid its ongoing military offensive in Ukraine. However, the city’s authorities have claimed that its air defense group destroyed two missiles but that another four hit a military target and residential buildings, leading to civilian deaths.
It was not immediately clear if the buildings were struck by the Russia attack or attempts by Ukrainian forces to strike down the missiles initially aimed at the military target.
According to Russian military spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, in the afternoon, “high-precision long-range air-launched missiles” hit a logistics terminal located on a military airfield near Odessa, where “a large batch of foreign weapons received from the United States and European countries was stored.”
Russia has repeatedly warned NATO against sending arms to Ukraine and stated that it would consider arms convoys to be legitimate military targets.
Odessa regional emergency services earlier said that “as a result of an enemy shelling,” a sixteen-story residential building caught fire, which was put out in about two and a half hours.
“At this point it is known that 6 people died, including one child, and 18 people were injured. Two people were rescued from the rubble, 86 people were evacuated,” the authorities said in a statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking later at a press conference in Kiev, elaborated on these claims.
“At this very moment eight people have died. Eighteen or twenty have been injured. A three-month old child died. A three-month old child was killed. When the war started, this child was just one month old. Can you imagine this?” Zelensky said.
According to the press office of Ukraine's South Air Command, on Saturday the air defense group destroyed two cruise missiles, allegedly launched by Russian TU-95 strategic aircraft from the Caspian Sea, and two operational-tactical level UAVs, which “presumably corrected the flight of cruise missiles and placed active obstacles to air defenses.”
“Unfortunately, 2 missiles hit a military facility and 2 [hit] residential buildings,” the Ukrainian military claimed.
Since the launch of Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of committing war crimes, targeting civilians, hampering evacuations and violating international law. Several rounds of peace negotiations have not yielded any significant results.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.