Russian missile attack on Odesa leaves at least one dead and 22 wounded and damages historic cathedral; Putin says Ukrainian counteroffensive has ‘failed’
Russia attacked the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odesa again and kept up a barrage that has damaged critical port infrastructure in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said. At least one person was killed and 22 wounded in the strike early on Sunday. The city has come under repeated attack since Moscow last week pulled out of a deal allowing the export of Ukrainian grain.
Four children were among the wounded in the Odesa blasts, which severely damaged the historic Transfiguration Cathedral, a landmark Orthodox cathedral in the city, said Odesa’s regional governor, Oleh Kiper. The cathedral’s archdeacon, Andrii Palchuk, rued the “enormous” destruction of the church, which he said was caused by a direct hit from a Russian missile.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said Ukraine’s counteroffensive “has failed” as he hosted Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, his close ally, for talks in St Petersburg. “There is no counteroffensive,” Russian news agencies quoted Lukashenko as saying on Sunday, to which Putin replied: “It exists, but it has failed.” Ukraine began its long-anticipated counteroffensive last month but has so far made only small gains.
Lukashenko claimed Minsk was “controlling” the situation with fighters from the Wagner mercenary group and restricting them to staying in the centre of the country. Belarus is hosting Wagner fighters on its territory after brokering a deal after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin ended a short-lived uprising last month in exchange for safe passage to exile in Belarus.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said Kyiv and Warsaw will “always stand united” after Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko accused Poland of having territorial ambitions. “Putin’s attempts to drive a wedge between Kyiv and Warsaw are as futile as his failing invasion of Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Unlike Russia, Poland and Ukraine have learned from history and will always stand united against Russian imperialism and disrespect for international law.”
Ukraine alleged Russia shelled a cultural centre in the Donetsk region with cluster munitions on Sunday morning. The defence ministry said the centre in Chasiv Yar housed the “humanitarian headquarters” and was used as an aid distribution point for civilians.
A meeting of a new Nato-Ukraine Council, expected to address Black Sea security, has been scheduled for Wednesday, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday. Nato spokesperson Oanu Lungescu said earlier that the previously announced meeting, requested by Zelenskiy in a phone conversation with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, would discuss the situation following Russia’s withdrawal from the year-old deal over Ukrainian grain exports.