Russia bombarded Odesa for a second night with drones and missiles early Wednesday, according to Ukrainian officials, setting off loud and prolonged explosions in the Black Sea port city in an apparent continuation of what Moscow said was retribution for an attack on a vital Crimean bridge.
Several waves of missiles and drones were launched at cities across Ukraine overnight, but the assault was particularly concentrated on infrastructure targets in Odesa, according to Ukraine’s Air Force. Smoke was visible rising over the main port of Odesa as dawn broke on Wednesday morning.
“It was a hellish night,” Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration, said in a video message posted on social media. He called the attack “very powerful, truly massive” and said it might have been the largest attack on the city since Russia’s full scale invasion began.
At least 30 cruise missiles and 32 attack drones were fired at targets across the country, primarily from the Black Sea, the air force said. Ukraine said it had intercepted 14 of the missiles and 23 of the drones.
In Odesa, one intercepted missile caused a large explosion, the blast wave damaging several buildings and injuring civilians, according to the Ukrainian military. Port infrastructure, including a grain and oil terminal, tanks, and loading equipment were damaged, the military said. Tobacco and fireworks warehouses were also hit, according to the military. Odesa’s city government said that 10 people needed medical help, including a 9-year-old boy.
On the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula, a fire at a military training ground prompted the evacuations of at least 2,000 residents and the closure of a highway, according to Sergei Aksyonov, the Russia-appointed head of Crimea.
The flare-up of tensions around the Black Sea follows Monday’s blast on the Kerch Strait Bridge connecting Crimea to Russia. The bridge, a strategically important link to supply Russian forces in southern Ukraine, was damaged in an apparent Ukrainian attack by naval drones.
Ukraine said the assault on Odesa, the country’s largest port, was part of a Russian effort to resume its de facto blockade of Ukrainian grain ships passing through the Black Sea. Russia pulled out of a United Nations-brokered agreement to allow for food exports on Monday hours after the bridge attack.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, accused Russia of intentionally striking grain terminals and other port facilities, saying on Twitter that the goal of Wednesday’s strike was to “destroy the possibility of shipping Ukrainian grain.”
Moscow has denied the attacks are related to the suspended grain deal, saying on Tuesday that they were a “mass retaliatory strike” on facilities used to manufacture drones used in attacks against Russia.
The Kremlin issued threats on Tuesday against Kyiv attempting to continue shipments of food through the Black Sea, with spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov saying: “Certain risks emerge there without appropriate security guarantees.”
Russia also launched a wave of drones at Kyiv, but all were destroyed by the city’s air defenses, said Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv military administration.