ODESA, Ukraine (AP) — Russia struck the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa again on Sunday, local officials said, continuing a flurry of attacks that damaged critical port infrastructure in southern Ukraine last week. At least one person was killed and 22 others injured in the early morning attack.
Regional Governor Oleh Kiper said four children were among those injured in the blasts, which severely damaged the historic Transfiguration Cathedral, an iconic Orthodox cathedral in the city.
Russia has launched persistent attacks on Odessa, a key grain export hub, since Moscow on Monday canceled a landmark grain deal amid strenuous efforts by Kiev to retake its occupied territories.
Kiper noted that six residential buildings, including apartment buildings, were destroyed by the strikes.
In one such case in downtown Odessa, some people were trapped in their apartments following damage from the attack, which left rubble strewn across the street and partly blocking the road, as well as damage to power lines.
Svitlana Molcharova, 85, was rescued by rescue workers. But after receiving first medical treatment, she refused to leave her destroyed apartment.
“I’m going to stay here,” she told the first aider who advised her to leave.
“I woke up when the ceiling started falling on top of me. I rushed down the hall,” said Ivan Kovalenko, 19, another resident of the building. He came to Odessa after fleeing the city of Mykolaiv in search of a safer place to live after his house was destroyed.
“That’s how I lost my house in Mykolaiv, and here I lost my rented apartment. ”
At his house, the ceiling partially collapsed, the balcony broke off from the side of the building and all the windows were blown out.
The Transfiguration Cathedral, one of the most important and largest Orthodox cathedrals in Odessa, was badly damaged.
“The destruction is enormous, half of the cathedral is now roofless,” Archdeacon Andrii Palchuk said, as cathedral workers removed documents and valuables from the badly damaged building, whose floor was flooded with water used by firefighters to put out the fire.
Palchuk said the damage was caused by a direct hit from a Russian missile which penetrated the building to the basement and caused extensive damage. Two people who were inside at the time of the strike were injured.
“But with God’s help, we will restore it,” he said, bursting into tears.
The historic center of Odessa was designated an endangered World Heritage Site by the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, earlier this year, despite Russian opposition.
Russian attacks earlier this week crippled major parts of export facilities in Odessa and nearby Chornomorsk and destroyed 60,000 tonnes of grain, according to Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry.
The attacks come days after President Vladimir Putin withdrew Russia from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a wartime deal that allowed Ukrainian exports to reach many countries threatened by hunger.
Putin has vowed to retaliate against kyiv for an attack Monday on the crucial Kerch Bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014.
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