ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Russia rammed the vital port of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to disrupt Western supply lines and arms deliveries as Ukraine’s Foreign Minister foreign seemed to suggest that the country could ex
ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — Russia rammed the vital port of Odessa, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday, in an apparent effort to disrupt Western supply lines and arms deliveries as Ukraine’s Foreign Minister foreign affairs seemed to suggest that the country might expand its war aims.
With the war now in its 11th week and kyiv bogging down Russian forces and even staging a counter-offensive, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba seemed to indicate that the country could go beyond simply pushing Russia back into areas it or its allies held the February 24 invasion day.
The idea reflected Ukraine’s ability to thwart a larger and better armed Russian army, which surprised many who had anticipated a much quicker end to the conflict.
One of the most spectacular examples of Ukraine’s ability to prevent easy wins is in Mariupol, where Ukrainian fighters remained entrenched in a steel mill, depriving Russia of full control of the city. The regiment defending the factory said Russian warplanes continued to bombard it, striking 34 times in 24 hours.
In recent days, the United Nations and the Red Cross have organized the rescue of what some officials said are the last civilians trapped in the factory. But two officials said on Tuesday that around 100 of them are still in the complex’s underground tunnels. Donetsk Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said those remaining are people “whom the Russians did not select” for evacuation.
Kyrylenko and Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, did not say how they knew civilians were still in the complex – a maze of tunnels and bunkers spread over 11 square kilometers (4 square miles). Others said their statements were impossible to confirm.
Fighters from the Azov regiment posted photos of their wounded comrades inside the plant, some with amputated limbs. They said the injured were living in unsanitary conditions “with open wounds bandaged with remnants of non-sterile bandages, without the necessary medication or even food”.
In its statement on Telegram, the regiment called on the UN and the Red Cross to evacuate wounded servicemen to territories under Ukrainian control.
Photos could not be independently verified.
In another example of the gruesome 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 town of Izyum .
New UN figures, meanwhile, indicate that 14 million Ukrainians were forced from their homes at the end of April, of whom more than 5.9 million have left the country.
In Washington, a senior US intelligence official said on Tuesday that eight to ten Russian generals had been killed during the war. Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who heads the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate committee that since Russia has no noncommissioned officer corps, its generals have to go to combat zones and end up in positions dangerous.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russian forces fired seven missiles at Odessa a day earlier, hitting a mall and a warehouse in the country’s largest port. One person was killed and five others injured, the army said.
Footage showed a burning building and debris – including a tennis shoe – in a heap of destruction in the Black Sea city. Mayor Gennady Trukhanov later visited the warehouse and said it “has nothing in common with military infrastructure or military objects”.
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 say Russia is rapidly depleting its stockpile of precision weapons, increasing the risk of more inaccurate rockets being used as the conflict continues.
Since the forces of President Vladimir Putin failed to take kyiv At the start of the war, its focus shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of Donbass – but one general suggested Moscow’s goals also include cutting Ukraine’s maritime access to the Black and Azov seas .
It would also give him a strip 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 fails to separate Ukraine from the coast – and it appears to lack the forces to do so – the continued missile strikes on Odessa reflect the city’s strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport and claimed it destroyed several Western arms bundles.
Odessa is also a major gateway for grain shipmentsand its blockade by Russia is already threatening the world’s food supply. Beyond that, the city is a cultural gem, dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike, and aiming for it has symbolic significance.
Russian forces have made slow progress in Donbass, but there have been multiple setbacks. Military analysts suggest that striking Odessa could serve to stoke concerns over southwestern Ukraine, forcing kyiv to deploy more forces there. This would drive them away from the eastern front as the Ukrainian military mounts counter-offensives near the northeast city of Kharkiv.
Kharkiv and its surroundings have come under sustained Russian attack since the start of the war. These last weeks, macabre images bore witness to the horrors of these battles, with charred and mutilated bodies strewn in a street.
Russian planes launched unguided missiles twice on Tuesday in the Sumy region, 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 Ukraine’s border with Belarus, was hit by mortar fire from Russian territory. There was no word on the casualties.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday the military was gradually moving Russian troops away from Kharkiv. Ukraine’s army general staff said its forces drove the Russians out of four villages northeast of Kharkiv as it tried to push them back towards the Russian border.
Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, appeared to express growing confidence – and expanded goals – amid the stalled Russian offensive. He told the Financial Times that Ukraine initially thought victory would be the withdrawal of Russian troops to the positions they held before the February 24 invasion.
“Now, if we are strong enough on the military front and we win the Battle of Donbass, which will be crucial for the next 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 agree that although Russia may not be able to make quick gains, the Ukrainian military is not strong enough to repel the Russians.
Zelenskyy took advantage of his late-night address to pay tribute to Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of an independent Ukrainedied Tuesday at age 88. Zelenskyy said Kravchuk showed courage and knew how to get the country to listen to him.
This was especially important in “times of crisis, when the future of the whole country may depend on the courage of one man,” said Zelenskyy, whose own communication skills and decision to stay in Kyiv when it was attacked by Russia helped make him a powerful warlord.
In the United States, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure on Monday to revive the WWII “Lend-Lease” program, which helped defeat Nazi Germany, to strengthen kyiv and its allies. Tuesday, the United States House approved a new $40 billion aid package for Ukraine 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 global staff contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Elena Becatoros and Jon Gambrell, Associated Press