Black Sea areas targeted in new Russian airstrikes
Top diplomat says Moscow is ready for talks to end the war
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia targeted Ukraine’s southern Black Sea regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv with airstrikes Tuesday from missiles fired from long-range bomber aircraft, the Ukrainian military said.
In the Odesa region, buildings in coastal villages were hit and caught fire, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said on Facebook. A Ukrainian air force spokesman said long-range Russian Tu-22M3 bombers and Su-30 and Su-35 fighter jets launched the strikes from the Black Sea.
In the Mykolaiv region, port infrastructure was targeted despite agreements intended to allow grain shipments to resume from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
Hours after the strikes, a Moscow-installed official in southern Ukraine said the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions would soon be “liberated” by Russian forces, just like the already occupied Kherson region further east.
“The Kherson region and the city of Kherson have been liberated forever,” Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the region’s Russia-appointed official, Kirill Stremousov, as saying.
Meanwhile, Russia’s top diplomat repeated his insistence that Moscow was ready to hold talks with Ukraine on ending the war, though he once again claimed that Kyiv’s Western allies oppose a deal.
“We never refused to have talks, because everybody knows that any hostilities end at the negotiating table,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday from Uganda as he continued a tour of several countries in Africa.
He said negotiations have gone no further since a meeting between the two sides in Istanbul at the end of March.
While Ukrainian officials have spoken of a possible counteroffensive in the south, the British Defense Ministry said Tuesday there was no indication a Ukrainian warship and a stockpile of anti-ship missiles were at Odesa’s port, as Moscow claimed when it struck the site over the weekend.
The British ministry said Russia sees Ukraine’s use of anti-ship missiles as “a key threat” limiting its Black Sea Fleet.
“This has significantly undermined the overall invasion plan, as Russia cannot realistically attempt an amphibious assault to seize Odesa,” the ministry said. “Russia will continue to prioritize efforts to degrade and destroy Ukraine’s antiship capability.”
It added that “Russia’s targeting processes are highly likely routinely undermined by dated intelligence, poor planning, and a top-down approach to operations.”
In other military developments, Russian shelling over the previous 24 hours killed at least three civilians and wounded eight more in Ukraine, the Ukrainian president’s office said Tuesday.
In the eastern Donetsk region, where the fighting has been focused in recent months, shelling continued along the entire front line, with Russian forces targeting some of the region’s largest cities, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Toretsk, the presidential office said.
Donetsk regional Gov.
Pavlo Kyrylenko accused Russian troops of using cluster munitions and repeated his call for civilians to evacuate.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, reported that Moscow was using mercenaries from the shadowy Wagner Group to capture the Vuhledar Power Plant on the northern outskirts of the Bakhmut region village of Novoluhanske.
But Russian forces have made “limited gains” there, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
The main regional Russian focus for the moment is on capturing Bakhmut, which the Russian military needs to press its eastern offensive on the Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
“Russian forces made marginal gains south of Bakhmut but are unlikely to be able to effectively leverage these advances to take full control of Bakhmut itself,” the Institute for the Study of War said.
Russian forces continued to strike civilian infrastructure
in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and the surrounding region in the country’s northeast.
Also on Tuesday, European Union governments agreed to ration natural gas this winter to protect against Russian supply cuts. EU energy ministers approved a draft law designed to lower demand for gas by 15% from August through March.
The legislation entails voluntary national steps to reduce gas consumption and, if they yield insufficient savings, a trigger for mandatory actions.