Russia planning to bomb port city of Odessa, claims Zelenskyy | Russia-Ukraine war News


No immediate comment by the Russian army after the Ukrainian president says an attack on the city of one million people would amount to ‘war crime’.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed that Russian forces were preparing to bombard the major port city of Odessa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.

“They are preparing to bomb Odessa,” Zelenskyy said in a televised address on Sunday.

“Russians have always come to Odessa. They have always felt only warmth in Odessa. Only sincerity. And now what? Bombs against Odessa? Artillery against Odessa? Missiles against Odessa? ” he continued, without elaborating. “It will be a war crime. It will be a historical crime. ”

There was no immediate comment by Russia, which launched an invasion against Ukraine from air, land and sea on February 24.

Russian forces have since made progress, overrunning the city of Kherson and besieging the port of Mariupol, but Odessa has so far been largely spared.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Ukraine DAY 11
(Al Jazeera)

About a million people live in Odessa, a cosmopolitan harbor on Ukraine’s southern coast with both Ukrainian and Russian speakers and Bulgarian and Jewish minorities.

The Russian advance from occupied Crimea has in part turned east to link up with Russian-backed separatists and to seize the Sea of ​​Azov port of Mariupol.

But a section of the forces has also headed west to Kherson, on the road towards Odessa. The city is also close to the Moldovan border and the disputed region of Transnistria.

“It’s the biggest seaport; 70 percent of our exports go through the sea, ”Hanna Shelest, director of security programs at the Ukrainian Prism think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

Reporting from Lviv, in western Ukraine, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said a potential seizure of Odessa, along with other southern port cities, would “effectively turn Ukraine into a landlocked country”.

“It has been in the air for days now that the possibility is there – that the Russian forces that have been extending their gains north of Crimea, through Kherson and onwards through the town of Mykolaiv, may well try to double back on Odessa and join up with a naval landing from elements of the Black Sea fleet that have been hovering on the horizon there for several days, ”he added.

“That’s been talked about – whether Zelenskyy is referring to specific intelligence or not it’s not clear.”

During the first 11 days of the conflict, Russian forces also advanced on the capital, Kyiv, from the northwest and northeast, while another group bombed the northern city of Kharkiv.

Several cities have been bombed and shelled and the United Nations says more than 1.5 million civilians have been driven from their homes by fighting.



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