Russia unleashed an unprecedented bombardment in southern Ukraine overnight in what local officials described as a “massive attack” in the conflict which has continued to rage even as the international community’s attention has moved to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The Ukrainian Internal Affairs Ministry on Monday morning said Russia dropped at least “87 aerial bombs on populated areas of the Kherson region - the largest number for all time.” At least eight people were also injured in other Russian strikes carried out in the Odessa region farther to the west on Sunday night.
Four high-rise apartment buildings in Kherson city were damaged in the first strikes on Sunday evening, the ministry said, but no casualties were reported. Later, at around 3 a.m. on Monday, the city was shelled for a second time, with two more private houses hit. Another 12 airstrikes took place through the night in the city of Beryslav and around 17 miles away in the village of Krynky across the Dnipro River.
At around 9 p.m. on Sunday, another barrage using drones and missiles began in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. “As a result of the attack, 20 apartment buildings, an art museum, more than two dozen cars, and infrastructure were damaged,” the ministry said, adding that eight people were injured in the attacks.
The Operational Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine “South” separately said the strikes in Odessa damaged a “museum in the historic part of the city, classified as a UNESCO heritage” site. Odessa Governor Oleh Kiper shared images of the damage to the Odessa Fine Arts Museum located in one of the city’s oldest palaces. He said most of the museum’s collection had been evacuated “in advance,” and that paintings still displayed in exhibitions “were not affected.”
He added that the museum “turns 124 years old” on November 6. “It was on the night of November 6 that the Russians ‘congratulated’ our architectural monument with a rocket that hit nearby,” Kiper said.
Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office, indicated that the strikes in Odessa were Russia’s retaliation to Ukrainian attacks in Crimea. “This is their pitiful response to reality,” he wrote on Telegram. “Ukrainian Crimea will be demilitarized, without the Black Sea fleet and Russian military bases.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has attempted to link his country’s battle against Russia with Israel’s conflict against Hamas, with U.S. lawmakers politically divided about providing support to both fights together. Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Zelensky accused Russia of being involved in both conflicts by sponsoring Hamas.
The Ukrainian leader was also asked about a report last week claiming that U.S. and European officials have started quietly speaking to his government about the possibility of peace negotiations to end the war with Russia. “I am not ready to speak with the terrorists because their word is nothing,” Zelensky said. Later, he added: “We are not ready to give our freedom to this fucking terrorist Putin. That’s it. That’s why we are fighting.”