At least six people were killed when two cruise missiles struck a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said. Given the extent of the damage, officials said the number of victims was certain to climb.
“There will be more,” Sergei Nazarov, an aide to Odesa’s mayor, said in a text message.
He said the missiles struck a residential neighborhood in the Tairove district in the far west of the city. Photographs and video from the scene, including those posted to the city government’s Telegram channel, appeared to show extensive damage to a large housing complex, which was partially obscured by plumes of thick, black smoke.
“All of this is while peaceful Odesa was preparing for Easter Sunday,” the mayor of Odesa, Gennady Trukhanov, said in a statement posted to the city’s Telegram channel. Orthodox Christians, who make up the majority in Ukraine, celebrate Easter this Sunday, and some in the Ukrainian military had expected, or hoped, that there might be some letup in the shelling.
At least 18 were wounded in the strike, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential administration. He said a three-month-old baby was among the dead.
The missile attack on Odesa comes a day after a Russian general outlined what appeared to be a broad new set of military objectives, including the seizure of all Ukrainian lands along the Black Sea, including Odesa.
While taking Odesa had appeared to be a major goal of the Russian military at the outset of the war, efforts by Russian forces to march westward along the coastline have been hindered by fierce Ukrainian resistance and logistical issues. The sinking this month of the Moskva, a warship in Russia’s Black Sea fleet, seemed to put an end to speculation that Moscow could mount an amphibious assault on the city.
In the past, Russian forces have launched rocket attacks against Odessa and the surrounding region by both air and sea, but those strikes have been largely aimed at military targets and strategic infrastructure. Until Saturday, Odessa had been largely spared the high-casualty attacks on civilians suffered by other Ukrainian cities.
Saturday’s attack was carried out by a Russian Tu-95 strategic bomber flying over the Caspian Sea, according to a statement by Ukraine’s southern air defense forces. It said the bomber fired six cruise missiles, two of which were taken out by Ukraine’s missile defense system.
“Unfortunately two missiles hit military targets and two hit residential homes,” the statement said, adding that Ukrainian forces also destroyed two Russian drones that were being used to help target the missiles.
It was not immediately clear what military targets had been hit.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, described the missile strikes as a terrorist attack.
“The only aim of Russian missile strikes on Odessa is terror,” Mr. Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “We need a wall between civilization and barbarians striking peaceful cities with missiles.”