Latest in Ukraine: Russian Attacks Target Kyiv and Odesa
U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Pope Francis' peace envoy, for talks about Vatican efforts to provide humanitarian aid in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his government is working to "preserve Ukraine's global role as a guarantor of food security, our maritime access to the global market, and jobs for Ukrainians in ports and in the agricultural industry" following Russia's withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Ukrainian officials said Wednesday that Russian forces carried out airstrikes on the Odesa region in southern Ukraine for a second consecutive night while also targeting the capital, Kyiv, and other areas.
Ukraine’s air force said the military downed 37 of 63 missiles and drones that Russia launched across the country, and that the main targets were infrastructure and military facilities in the Odesa area.
Odesa’s ports were used to export grain under an agreement that lasted for nearly a year before Russia announced it was ending its participation earlier this week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that Russia’s latest attack “targeted the grain deal infrastructure and every Russian missile is a blow not only to Ukraine, but to everyone in the world who wants a normal and safe life.”
Oleh Kiper, the Odesa regional governor, called the attack “powerful” and urged people to stay in shelters.
Ukraine’s air force said the military downed 23 of 32 Iranian-made Shahed drones and 14 cruise missiles that Russia launched.
Serhii Popko, the head of Kyiv’s city military administration, said on Telegram that air defenses intercepted all of the drones that targeted Kyiv and that there were no immediate reports of damage.
“A difficult night of air attacks for all of Ukraine,” Popko said.
After the first night of aerial attacks, which hit Odesa and nearby Mykolaiv, Russia said Tuesday it was acting in retaliation for an attack Monday that damaged a key bridge Russia used to supply its military in the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move not recognized by the international community.
Russia-installed authorities there said Wednesday more than 2,000 people were being evacuated after a fire broke out at a military training ground in the Kirovsky district. Officials did not specify the cause of the fire.
It’s too early to judge the outcome of the seemingly slow-moving counteroffensive of Ukrainian forces against Russian strongholds in eastern and southern Ukraine, the top U.S. military officer said Tuesday.
So far, war analysts say Ukraine has retaken about 250 square kilometers of territory since early June, but Russia has maintained control of large expanses of land.
Still, General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon, “It is far from a failure, in my view. I think it is way too early to make that kind of call.”
“First of all, the Russians have had several months to put in a very complex defense,” Milley said. “It’s not quite connected, transform[ing] like World War I, but it’s not dissimilar from that either.”
Milley said Moscow’s forces had built “lots of complex minefields, Dragon’s Teeth [anti-tank obstacles], barbed-wire trenches.”
Milley said Russian “morale is low, and now recently because of the [Yevgeny] Prighozin mutiny [of Wagner Group troops], command and control is confusing at best. Significant casualties of their officer corps, so the Russian situation is not very good.”
He said “what the Ukrainians have, though, is a significant amount of combat power not yet committed. And I will not say what’s going to happen in the future, because that’s going to be a Ukrainian decision… Right now, they are preserving their combat power, and they are slowly and deliberately and steadily working their way through all these minefields.”
‘Going to do what it takes’
The U.S. military leader said the West’s coalition supporting Ukraine’s forces has trained 17 brigade combat teams and more than 63,000 troops, 15,000 of them by the U.S.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “I’ve asked our [Western allies] to continue to dig deep into the military stocks because we’re going to do what it takes to support Ukraine’s sovereign right to live free today and for the future…. They continue to make progress on a cohesive training plan and to help some very eager Ukrainian pilots learn to fly fourth generation aircraft.”
Milley added, “The problem is control of the air space. The most effective and efficient and cost-effective way to do that right now in Ukraine is ground-to-air [missiles]. And that’s what they’ve been provided.”
“The casualties that Ukrainians are suffering in this offensive are not so much from Russian airpower but from minefields,” Milley said. “So, the problem to solve is minefields.”
Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.