Russia pummels port of Odesa in attempt to disrupt supplies

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ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Russia pummeled the vital port of Odesa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to disrupt supply lines and Western weapons shipments as Ukraine’s foreign minister appeared to suggest the country could expand its war aims.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/05/2022 (208 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Russia pummeled the vital port of Odesa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to disrupt supply lines and Western weapons shipments as Ukraine’s foreign minister appeared to suggest the country could expand its war aims.

With the war now in its 11th week and Kyiv bogging down Russian forces and even staging a counteroffensive, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba seemed to indicate that the country could go beyond merely pushing Russia back to areas it or its allies held on the day of the Feb. 24 invasion.

The idea reflected Ukraine’s ability to stymie a larger, better-armed Russian military, which has surprised many who had anticipated a much quicker end to the conflict.

Soldiers carry a coffin with remains of a volunteer soldier Oleksandr Makhov, a well-known Ukrainian journalist, killed by the Russian troops, at St Michael cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2022. The coffin is followed by Makhov's widow.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

One of the most dramatic examples of Ukraine’s ability to prevent easy victories is in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters remained holed up at a steel plant, denying Russia’s full control of the city. The regiment defending the plant said Russian warplanes continued bombarding it, striking 34 times in 24 hours.

In recent days, the United Nations and the Red Cross organized a rescue of what some officials said were the last civilians trapped at the plant. But two officials said Tuesday that about 100 were believed to still be in the complex’s underground tunnels. Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said those who remain are people “that the Russians have not selected” for evacuation.

Kyrylenko and Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor, did not say how they knew civilians were still in the complex — a warren of tunnels and bunkers spread over 11 square kilometers (4 square miles). Others said their statements were impossible to confirm.

Fighters with the Azov regiment released photos of their wounded comrades inside the plant, including some with amputated limbs. They said the wounded were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds bandaged with non-sterile remnants of bandages, without the necessary medication and even food.”

In its statement on Telegram, the regiment appealed to the U.N and Red Cross to evacuate the wounded servicemen to Ukrainian-controlled territories.

A soldier pays his last tribute to volunteer soldier Oleksandr Makhov, 36, a well-known Ukrainian journalist, killed by Russian troops, during his funeral at St Michael cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The photos could not be independently verified.

In another example of the grisly toll of the war, Ukrainian officials said they found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a building destroyed weeks ago in the northeastern city of Izyum.

New U.N. figures, meanwhile, said that 14 million Ukrainians were forced from their homes by the end of April, including more than 5.9 million who have left the country.

In Washington, a top U.S. intelligence official testified Tuesday that eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed in the war. Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate committee that because Russia lacks a noncommissioned officer corps, its generals have to go into combat zones and end up in dangerous positions.

Ukraine said Tuesday that Russian forces fired seven missiles at Odesa a day earlier, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse in the country’s largest port. One person was killed and five wounded, the military said.

A Ukrainian emergency worker stands next to the bodies of Russian soldiers in the village of Vilkhivka, recently retaken by Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Images showed a burning building and debris — including a tennis shoe — in a heap of destruction in the city on the Black Sea. Mayor Gennady Trukhanov later visited the warehouse and said it “had nothing in common with military infrastructure or military objects.”

Ukraine alleged at least some of the munitions used dated to the Soviet era, making them unreliable in targeting. Ukrainian, British and U.S. officials say Russia is rapidly using up its stock of precision weapons, raising the risk of more imprecise rockets being used as the conflict grinds on.

Since President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed to take Kyiv early in the war, his focus has shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas — but one general has suggested Moscow’s aims also include cutting Ukraine’s maritime access to both the Black and Azov seas.

That would also give it a swath of territory linking Russia to both the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Moscow region of Moldova.

Even if Russia falls short of severing Ukraine from the coast — and it appears to lack the forces to do so — the continuing missile strikes on Odesa reflect the city’s strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport and claimed it destroyed several batches of Western weapons.

A Ukrainian National Guard soldier enters a underground shelter at a position near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Odesa is also a major gateway for grain shipments, and its blockade by Russia already threatens global food supplies. Beyond that, the city is a cultural jewel, dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and targeting it carries symbolic significance.

Russian forces have made slow advances in the Donbas, but there have been multiple setbacks. Military analysts suggest that hitting Odesa might serve to stoke concern about southwestern Ukraine, thus forcing Kyiv to put more forces there. That would pull them away from the eastern front as Ukraine’s military stages counteroffensives near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Kharkiv and the surrounding area has been under sustained Russian attack since the early in the war. In recent weeks, grisly pictures testified to the horrors of those battles, with charred and mangled bodies strewn in one street.

Russian aircraft twice launched unguided missiles Tuesday at the Sumy area northeast of Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian border guard service. The region’s governor said the missiles hit several residential buildings, but no one was killed. The Chernihiv region, along the Ukrainian border with Belarus, was hit by mortars fired from Russian territory. There was no word on casualties.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that the military was gradually pushing Russian troops away from Kharkiv. The Ukrainian military’s general staff said its forces drove the Russians out of four villages to the northeast of Kharkiv as it tries to push them back toward the Russian border.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to the body of a suspected Russian soldier, in the village of Vilkhivka, recently retaken by Ukraininan forces near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, meanwhile, appeared to voice increasing confidence — and expanded goals — amid Russia’s stalled offensive. He told the Financial Times that Ukraine initially believed victory would be the withdrawal of Russian troops to positions they occupied before the Feb. 24 invasion.

“Now if we are strong enough on the military front, and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories.”

The comments seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities: Many analysts acknowledge that although Russia isn’t capable of making quick gains, the Ukrainian military isn’t strong enough to drive the Russians back.

Zelenskyy used his nightly address to pay tribute to Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of an independent Ukraine, who died Tuesday at 88. Zelenskyy said Kravchuk showed courage and knew how to get the country to listen to him.

That was particularly important in “crisis moments, when the future of the whole country may depend on the courage of one man,” said Zelenskyy, whose own communication skills and decision to remain in Kyiv when it came under Russian attack have helped make him a strong wartime leader.

An Ukrainian firefighter works near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. (AP Photo/Max Pshybyshevsky)

In the U.S., President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure Monday to reboot the World War II-era “lend-lease” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to bolster Kyiv and its allies. On Tuesday, the U.S. House approved a new $40 billion Ukraine aid package for defense and humanitarian programs in Ukraine.

___

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, Kelvin Chan in London and AP’s worldwide staff contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

People stand near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. (AP Photo/Max Pshybyshevsky)
People stand near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. (AP Photo/Max Pshybyshevsky)
Ukrainian servicemen carry an injured comrade on A stretcher to the hospital after an attack by Russian forces in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday, May 9, 2022.(AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
An Ukrainian firefighter works near a destroyed building on the outskirts of Odesa, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odesa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. (AP Photo/Max Pshybyshevsky)
A local residence rides a bike past a destroyed Russian military vehicle in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Ukrainian Su-25 jet flies release heat flares after an attack on Russian positions in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
In this photo provided by Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office, an Azov Special Forces Regiment's serviceman, injured during fighting against Russian forces, poses for a photographer inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Dmytro 'Orest' Kozatskyi/Azov Special Forces Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard Press Office via AP)
A de-miner wearing protective gear works in an area where unexploded devices were found after shelling of Russian forces in Maksymilyanivka, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Two men from the Ukrainian territorial defence forces patrol at a public park as the sun sets in Kyiv Ukraine on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, center, and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova talk as they stand near a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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