ODESA: People react in front of toys displayed outside a multi-story building heavily damaged in Odesa on March 3, 2024. — AFP
ODESA: People react in front of toys displayed outside a multi-story building heavily damaged in Odesa on March 3, 2024. — AFP
Zelensky vows Ukrainian victory
Death toll in Odesa strike hits 10 with 215 emergency responders involved in rescue operations

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday called for the world to help Kyiv defeat “Russian evil” as the death toll from a Russian drone strike on Odesa rose to 10, including three young children.

A Russian drone hit an apartment block in the southern port city early on Saturday morning, partially destroying several floors and leaving more than a dozen under the rubble. “So far, 10 people have died, including three children: Mark, who was not even three years old, Yelyzaveta, eight months old, and Timofey, four months old. Ukrainian children are Russia’s military targets,” Zelensky said on Sunday in a post on Telegram.

Local officials said they expect the toll to rise as there are still people unaccounted for. Zelensky on Saturday had pleaded with Kyiv’s Western allies to supply more air defense systems as Russia continues to pound his country with drones, missiles and artillery fire in the war’s third year.

Ukraine is currently on the back foot with Russia having made recent frontline battlefield gains. Ukraine’s interior ministry separately reported one death and three people wounded in the southern Kherson region.

Zelensky said 215 emergency responders had taken part in an ongoing search and rescue operation in Odesa. As delays to a crucial $60-billion aid package from the United States has left Kyiv facing ammunition shortages, Zelensky said the attack showed the importance of supporting Ukraine. “We must win this war,” he said on Sunday. “Every Russian loss at the front is our country’s response to Russian terror. The world must respond to every manifestation of Russian evil and repel Russia’s actions.”

Bodies huddled together

There was no comment on the strike in Moscow, which denies targeting civilians despite excessive evidence of Russian strikes on residential areas and the United Nations having verified at least 10,000 civilian deaths since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Ukraine’s emergency services said they had found the bodies of families huddled together as they sifted through the rubble on Sunday. “A mother tried to cover her eight-month-old baby with her body. They were found in a tight embrace,” the agency said on Telegram.

Russian military bloggers also reported an attempted massive Ukrainian drone attack on the annexed peninsula of Crimea overnight. Moscow said it shot down 38 Ukrainian drones, while the Rybar Telegram channel, close to Russia’s armed forces, said one hit a pipeline at an oil depot that was the presumed target of the attack.

Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid. A senior Ukrainian commander separately accused Russian forces of dropping explosives containing an unspecified chemical substance over the battlefield, and said the situation on the frontlines was “complicated, but under control.” — AFP

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