Status: 04/03/2022 10:30 AM

The focus of Russian attacks in Ukraine is shifting: there were explosions in the port city of Odessa in the south. From the region around Kiev Russian troops withdrew, in one city the Ukrainian army discovered dozens of dead.

There was an air strike on the strategically important port city of Odessa, according to the authorities. Detonations in the city in southwestern Ukraine were heard in the early morning, ARD correspondent Oliver Mayer-Rüth reported. In addition, at least three columns of black smoke and flames were seen presumably over an industrial area. The metropolis is Ukraine’s largest port and central to the economy of the entire country. So far, Odessa has not been the focus of the war effort.

It was not immediately clear whether it was shelling by Russian warplanes or other missiles. In the morning, an air alert was sounded. “Odessa was attacked from the air,” said Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister. “Fires were reported in some areas. Some of the missiles were shot down by air defenses. It is recommended to close the windows.” According to the Odessa city administration, an important part of the “infrastructure” was hit. “We hope that there will be no casualties,” said the city’s spokesman, Sergei Brachuk.

Kremlin: fuel storage facility in Odessa destroyed

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said fuel storage facilities had been destroyed by the attacks. The fuel was used to supply Ukrainian troops in the area of the city of Mykolaiv. The capture of Mykolaiv would be important for Russia to be able to advance to Odessa by land.

Russian troops fire missiles at port city of Odessa in Ukraine

Mathea Schülke, WDR, tagesschau 12:00, 3.4.2022

Scenes of horror after Russian withdrawal

Earlier, the Ukrainian army said it had regained full control of the region around the capital Kiev and other areas in the north. “Irpin, Butcha and Hostomel and the entire Kiev region – liberated from the enemy,” wrote Deputy Defense Minister Anna Maljar on Twitter.

The withdrawal of the Russians in the northwest of the metropolis was also reported by presidential adviser Olexy Arestovych. Around Kiev, more than 30 villages have been recaptured, he said. In the recaptured town of Butsha, Ukrainian troops encountered scenes of horror. Dozens of dead civilians lay in the streets. Many of them had been shot by Russian soldiers, presidential adviser Mychaylo Podolyak tweeted. “They were not in the military, they had no weapons, they posed no threat,” he wrote. “How many such cases are happening in the occupied territories right now?”

The AP news agency image shows a Ukrainian soldier next to a corpse in the recaptured town of Butsha. At least 300 civilians are believed to have been killed. Photo by AP

A photo Podolyak shared in his tweet showed shot men, one of whom had his hands tied behind his back. The authenticity of the image could not be independently verified. The bodies could not be buried during the Russian occupation, according to der “Ukrajinksa Pravda” from the administration. The reports of alleged atrocities by Russian soldiers could not be independently verified or confirmed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that the Russians had mined the areas before their withdrawal. The Ukrainian rescue service said that more than 1500 explosive devices had been found during a search of the village of Dmytriwka. The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on this information.

Conflict parties as source

Information on the course of the war, shelling, and casualties from official sources of the Russian and Ukrainian parties to the conflict cannot be independently verified directly in the current situation.

Selenskyj expects Russian attacks in the east and south

After the withdrawal of Russian troops around Kiev, Selenskyj now expects fierce Russian attacks in the east and south. “What is the goal of the Russian army? They want to conquer both the Donbass and the south of Ukraine,” Selenskyj said in a video message that night. The attack on Odessa confirms Selenskyj’s expectations. The Russian army also announced as a new focus the complete capture of the southeastern region.

To counter the Russian plans, the Ukrainian forces’ defenses will be strengthened in the eastern direction, Selenskyi said. “And this is well aware that the enemy has reserves to increase pressure.”

From the Crimean Peninsula eastward to the Russian border, Russia already controls the entire Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov – except for the port city of Mariupol. West of Crimea, Kherson had initially been taken but is again being fought over.

White shaded: Advance of the Russian army. Green shaded: separatist areas supported by Russia. Crimea: annexed by Russia. Image: ISW/01.04.2022

Selenskyj’s meeting with Putin remains questionable

Whether a direct meeting between Selenskyj and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin will take place after weeks of peace negotiations between representatives of Russia and Ukraine remains in doubt. Ukraine’s chief negotiator David Arachamija spoke on state television of a possible meeting in the near future.

Russia, on the other hand, said that the peace talks had not progressed far enough for the leaders to meet. Moreover, Moscow’s position on the status of Crimea and the Donbass remains unchanged, it said. “The draft agreement is not ready,” Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Telegram. “I keep repeating that Russia’s position on Crimea and the Donbass remains unchanged.”

Selenskyj has repeatedly called for direct talks with Putin. The Kremlin has so far refused, saying that Putin demands a concrete basis – in terms of completed preliminary negotiations – for this meeting. Moscow is demanding that Ukraine renounce NATO membership and recognize the breakaway eastern Ukrainian separatist territories as separate states and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, annexed in 2014, as part of Russia.

More than 20,000 people have been killed since Russia began its incursion into the neighboring country on Feb. 24, according to Ukrainian estimates. Nearly 4.14 million people

fled abroad from the fighting in Ukraine, according to the UN.

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