Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are again attacking the port city of Odesa. They said Russian forces appear to be trying to destroy supply lines and weapons shipments needed for the defense of Kyiv.
Ukraine has been able to block the larger and better-armed Russian military. That has surprised observers who expected a quick war. Now the war is in its 11th week.
Ukrainian forces are keeping Russia’s troops from moving forward and are organizing a counteroffensive. Ukraine appears to be expanding its goals beyond pushing Russia back to areas its allies controlled on the day of the invasion. Russia’s military action began on February 24.
The Ukrainian military said Tuesday that Russian forces fired seven missiles a day at Ukraine's largest port, Odesa. Officials said the missiles hit a storage building and a shopping center. One person was killed and five were wounded, the military said.
Odesa’s mayor visited the warehouse and said it “had nothing in common with military infrastructure or military objects.”
Russian forces failed to take the capital Kyiv in the early days of the war. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have changed his goal to capturing Ukraine’s eastern industrial center called the Donbas. But one general has suggested Russia’s aims include cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.
That would give Russia an area that would connect it to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014. It might also be connected to Transnistria, an unrecognized breakaway territory in Moldova.
Russia is continuing to strike Odesa because of its importance as a port. The Russian military has targeted the city’s airport and claimed that it has destroyed several shipments of Western weapons.
Odesa is also a major port for grain shipment. Russia's blockade is threatening food supplies in many parts of the world. The city is also a cultural center important to both Ukrainians and Russians. Attacking the city carries additional meaning.
With Russian forces struggling in the Donbas, military experts suggest that hitting Odesa might serve to bring more attention to southwestern Ukraine. That would force Ukraine to send forces there and pull them away from the eastern front. Ukraine’s military is making a counteroffensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Ukraine’s foreign minister sounded hopeful because Russia’s military movement has slowed.
“In the first months of the war the victory for us looked like withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before February 24,” Dmytro Kuleba told The Financial Times newspaper. “Now if we are strong enough on the military front … the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories."
The statement suggests that Ukraine wants to try to retake Crimea and areas of the Donbas taken by separatists supported by Russia.
Some military experts note that Russia is not able to make quick gains in Ukraine. But they warn that the Ukrainian military is not strong enough to drive the Russians back.
I’m Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
counteroffensive — n. a military attack ordered to defend against an enemy or opponent
infrastructure — n. the basic equipment and structures such as roads and ports needed for a country or group to operate
blockade — n. an act of war in which one country uses ships to stop people or supplies from entering or leaving another country or area
liberate — v. to free people or territory from control by another group