Civilian casualties increased in Odesa, a Ukrainian port city that has been under relentless attack by Russian troops in the past week after the Kremlin withdrew from an agreement that had allowed Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.
One person was killed and 22 others, including four children, were injured in a Russian missile attack on Odesa late Sunday, according to Ukrainian officials. At least six residential buildings were damaged, as was the Orthodox cathedral where rescuers removed an icon dedicated to the city's patron saint from the rubble.
At least 25 historic landmarks were damaged, Ukrainian Pravda reported.
“There is no excuse for Russia's crimes,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said of the attack in a Telegram post on Sunday, adding: “There will definitely be reprisals.”
With its busy port, Odesa has long been an important economic link for Ukraine with the rest of the global economy. Although the town had been attacked at the start of the war, there was a fleeting sense of normalcy as for nearly a year it had been shipping agricultural products despite a wartime blockade by Russia.
But that ended last week, after Russia said it would end its participation in the Black Sea grain deal, a deal that has helped stabilize food prices around the world. Moscow says the pact benefits Ukraine.
In recent days, Russia has launched some of the war's most ferocious offensives on Odesa, destroying the grain that can feed tens of thousands of people for a year. The attack has also killed at least one other civilian and injured at least two others. The Kremlin has threatened more hostilities, saying it would treat any ship sailing around Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea as a military target.
The cathedral is Odesa's largest Orthodox cathedral and remains aligned with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is backed by Moscow, although many parishes in Ukraine moved to join branches loyal to Kyiv after last year's massive Russian invasion.
Erected in 1794, this building also known as the Transfiguration Cathedral is the most important church in Novorossiya, the name given by the Russian Empire to the land along the Black Sea and Crimea which is part of present-day Ukraine. It was destroyed during the Soviet campaign against religion in 1936 and was not rebuilt until after the fall of the Soviet Union.
In 2010, Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, consecrated the newly rebuilt cathedral, in a sign of the close ties between the church and Moscow. Twelve years later, after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Kirill “blessed” the war effort and said that Russians fighting in Ukraine would have their “sins erased”.
There was no immediate comment from the patriarch or the Kremlin on Sunday's damage to the cathedral.
Russia's Defense Ministry said it had targeted military infrastructure in Odesa and blamed the cathedral's damage on “actions” by Ukraine's air defense team, saying in a post on its Telegram app that “the most likely cause of destruction was the downing of a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile.”
On Saturday, Zelensky warned of the dire impact of Russia's actions in the Black Sea.
“Any destabilization in the region and disruption of our export routes will create problems with appropriate consequences for everyone in the world,” he said in his speech. evening address. Food prices could soar, he said.
The grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey about a year ago, helped stabilize food prices around the world. Now, however, Russia's withdrawal from the agreement could again threaten food security in several countries already reeling from crises, especially in the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Zelensky pushed for more aid from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Following Saturday's meeting with the alliance's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, Zelensky said that the Ukraine-NATO Council, a new body that hopes to deepen the alliance between Ukraine and its allies, will soon hold a meeting on the situation in Odesa and the Black Sea.
Also on Sunday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said that Ukraine's counteroffensive, which was launched last month to retake territory in the south and east of the country, “has failed”. The Russian leader's comments were reported by Tass, the state news agency, after he met Belarusian President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko in St. Petersburg. Petersburg. It was one of the first public meetings between the two leaders since Lukashenko negotiated an end to last month's brief rebellion by Russian mercenary group Wagner.
Ivan Nechepurenko And Matthew Mpoke Bigg reporting contribution.