War between Russia and Ukraine: Odessa airport runway ‘destroyed’ | War news between Russia and Ukraine

The runway at the main airport in Ukraine’s Odessa has been destroyed by a Russian missile strike, officials said, as Ukrainian forces in the east of the country fought village by village to stop Moscow’s advance.

In an overnight video address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the newly constructed runway in the strategic Black Sea port had been shut down, but promised to rebuild it.

“Of course we’re going to rebuild it. But Odessa will never forget Russia’s behavior towards Russia,” he said.

Regional officials said the missile was launched from the Russia-annexed Crimean peninsula and said the airport could no longer be used.

Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odessa region, said Russian forces had used a Bastion missile in the attack.

“Thank God no one was injured. Anti-sabotage measures are being taken in the region,” he said in a video posted online.

Gennadiy Trukhanov, the mayor of the city of Odessa, said it took ten years to design and build the new runway, which officially opened last July.

“Thanks to the new runway, we expected a huge influx of tourists from all over the world. Instead, we got a missile strike,” he said on Facebook.

“But Odessa is not a city that gives in to difficulties. We will absolutely restore the runway after our victory and more tourists will come to us.”

There was no comment on the attack from Moscow, whose forces have sporadically targeted Odessa, Ukraine’s third-largest city.

Eight people died in a Russian attack on the city last week, Ukrainian officials said.

Russia has turned its attention to southern and eastern Ukraine after failing to take the capital Kiev in a nine-week offensive that has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than five million to flee abroad.

Russia’s renewed attack in the south is aimed in part at connecting the area to Crimea while pushing for full control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Parts of Donbas’s two provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, were already controlled by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion of Moscow on February 24.

In his speech, Zelenskyy said Russia is “gathering additional troops for new attacks on our army in the east of the country” and “trying to increase pressure in the Donbas”.

It has been difficult to get a full picture of the unfolding battle in eastern Ukraine, as airstrikes and artillery shelling have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to get around. But Western military analysts suggested the offensive there was going much slower than planned.

So far, Russian forces and separatists appear to have made only minor gains in the month since Moscow said it would concentrate its military strength in the east. Numerically, Russia’s military manpower far exceeds that of Ukraine. In the days before the war began, Western intelligence estimated that Russia had deployed as many as 190,000 soldiers at the border; Ukraine’s standing army numbers about 200,000, spread all over the country.

Yet, partly because of the tenacity of the Ukrainian resistance, the United States believes the Russians are “at least a few days behind schedule” as they try to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east, a senior US defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the assessment.

With enough firepower in reserve, the Russian offensive could still intensify and overrun the Ukrainians.

In total, the Russian army has an estimated 900,000 soldiers on active duty. Russia also has a much larger air force and navy.

The US and its European allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons and humanitarian aid.

US President Joe Biden wants a $33 billion aid package for Kiev, including $20 billion for weapons, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday his country will “continue to give Ukrainians the equipment they need to defend themselves” .

Russia has repeatedly warned the West against continuing military aid to Kiev, saying the arms shipments “pour oil on the flames of war”.

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