Russia bombarded the Black Sea port city of Odesa with drones and missiles for a second straight night, in what Ukrainian officials said was an attack on grain terminals and other vital infrastructure Ukraine needs to send food to the world. .
Ukraine’s air force said it was one of the largest airstrikes ever on Odesa, the country’s largest port, and several missiles and drones were launched at other cities overnight. At dawn, smoke was seen billowing over Odessa’s main port.
President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials called the attack part of a Russian bid to resume its de facto blockade of the Black Sea after Moscow pulled out of a United Nations-brokered deal that allowed Ukrainian grain ships to export food. Russian missiles hit Odessa on Tuesday, Moscow retaliating for an attack on a key bridge to occupied Crimea.
“Russian terrorists deliberately targeted the infrastructure of the grain deal, and every Russian missile is a blow not only to Ukraine, but to everyone in the world who wants a normal and secure life,” Mr. Zelensky said Wednesday.
At least 30 cruise missiles and 32 attack drones were fired at targets across the country, primarily from the Black Sea. Ukrainian Air Force reported. Ukraine reported intercepting 14 missiles and 23 drones.
“It was a hellish night,” Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration, said in a video message posted on social media. He called the attack “very powerful, really massive” and said it could be the biggest attack on the city since Russia’s full-scale invasion began.
In Odesa, an intercepted missile caused a large explosion, the blast wave damaged several buildings and injured civilians, the Ukrainian military said. Port infrastructure, including grain and oil terminals, tanks and loading equipment were damaged, the military said. Tobacco and fireworks warehouses were also hit, the military said. The Odessa city government said 10 people, including a 9-year-old boy, needed medical attention.
In the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, a fire at a military training ground forced the evacuation of at least 2,000 residents and closed a highway. According to Sergei Aksyonov was appointed the head of Crimea by Russia.
Tensions have risen around the Black Sea following Monday’s bombing of the Kerch Strait bridge linking Crimea to Russia. The bridge, a strategically important supply link for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, was damaged in a Ukrainian attack by naval drones.
Moscow has denied the attacks were linked to the suspended grain deal, saying on Tuesday they were a “mass retaliatory strike” on facilities used to manufacture drones used in attacks against Russia.
The Kremlin on Tuesday issued threats against Kyiv trying to continue sending food supplies through the Black Sea, with its spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov saying: “Some risks are emerging there without proper security guarantees.”
Russia also launched drones into the capital Kyiv on Wednesday, but all were destroyed by the city’s air defenses, said Serhii Babko, head of the city’s military administration.
Russia’s success in attacking critical infrastructure in the ports around Odessa reflected the difficulties Ukraine faces in securing cities, securing critical infrastructure, military equipment and troop concentrations.
“We can cover Odesa ports, Kyiv region, Dnipro, Lviv,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said in an appearance on Ukrainian television. “But we cannot stop all directions of missiles flying into Ukraine.”
The concentrated attacks on Odessa are particularly challenging for Ukraine given the types of missiles used by Russia and the tactics it uses to evade air defenses. Mr. At the same time, drones were used in large numbers in an attempt to take out air defense systems, making it difficult to track more powerful missiles.