Latest in Ukraine: Russian Airstrike Hits Mykolaiv
Belarus says its military is training with fighters from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group at a site near the Belarus-Poland border. European Union foreign ministers met Thursday to discuss a proposed four-year, $22.4 billion military aid plan for Ukraine.
Officials in southern Ukraine said Thursday that Russia carried out an overnight airstrike on the port city of Mykolaiv, wounding at least 19 people.
Regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram that the airstrike hit the city center, and that the wounded included five children. Kim added that two people were rescued from the rubble.
Oleksandr Snkevych, Mykolaiv’s mayor, said the strike damaged at least five high-rise buildings as well as a number of garages.
In Odesa, officials said Thursday a Russian strike killed at least one person.
Russia has targeted Odesa and Mykolaiv with aerial attacks multiple times this week.
“Russian terrorists continue their attempts to destroy the life of our country,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram.
Meanwhile, Russia-installed officials in Crimea said a Ukrainian drone attack killed one person and damaged multiple administrative buildings in the northwestern part of the peninsula.
Russia occupied Crimea and annexed it in 2014 in a move not recognized by the international community.
Black Sea shipping
Russia’s defense ministry issued new safety warnings to vessels bound for Ukrainian ports, two days after canceling an agreement that allowed ships carrying Ukrainian grain to pass through the Black Sea.
The statement issued on the Telegram messaging app said that starting at midnight Moscow time on July 20, “All vessels sailing in the waters of the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be regarded as potential carriers of military cargo.”
It added, “Countries of such vessels will be considered to be involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime.”
The statement said several areas in the Black Sea have been “declared temporarily dangerous for navigation” and that Russia has issued “warnings on the withdrawal of safety guarantees to mariners.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hodge said in a statement Wednesday that the United States has information indicating Russia placed additional sea mines in areas leading to Ukrainian ports.
“We believe that this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks,” Hodge said.
Kurt Volker, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, told VOA that Russia “has no right to threaten third-party vessels” operating in international waters in the Black Sea.
“The U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marines and the British and the Dutch, we have all stood for the principle of freedom of navigation for commercial vessels really since the beginning of the time the U.S. Navy was founded, and for Russia just to come out and say that any vessel that it decides it wants to attack it’s going to attack, that is the equivalent of piracy. And we have to speak up against this,” Volker said.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered last year by the United Nations and Turkey, lifted a Russian blockade on Ukrainian ports that Russia imposed after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Russia announced Monday it would not renew the deal, which is credited with easing food shortages and inflation in many countries that depend on Ukrainian grain to feed their populations.
USAID chief Samantha Power told VOA in Kyiv on Wednesday that countries should publicly condemn Russia for withdrawing from “an initiative that was all about getting food out of Ukraine to the rest of the world.”
“I saw firsthand in places like Somalia, Kenya and Lebanon over the course of the last year just how dependent those economies are on the import of Ukrainian wheat. So, you know, this is not a time for countries to stand back and lament this development. This is a chance for them to come out publicly or better yet, engage Russian diplomats on the costs of this decision for global food prices,” Power told VOA.
In Washington on Wednesday, the U.S. Defense Department announced a new $1.3 billion security package for Ukraine.
The package includes four advanced surface-to-air missile systems along with mine-clearing equipment and artillery rounds.
Russia has laid dense and complex minefields as part of efforts to defend territory it captured from Ukraine in the early stages of the war.
So far, war analysts say Ukraine has retaken about 250 square kilometers of territory since launching a counteroffensive in early June, but that Russia has maintained control of large expanses of land.
VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin, VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb and VOA’s Anna Chernikova in Kyiv contributed to this story. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.