Russia invades Ukraine: Air strikes rock port city of Odessa

Russia invades Ukraine: Air strikes rock port city of Odessa
The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground and additional analysis of the conflict's significance.
12 min read
03 April, 2022

Air strikes rocked Ukraine's strategic Black Sea port Odessa early Sunday morning, according to an interior ministry official, after Kyiv had warned that Russia was trying to consolidate its troops in the south.

"Odessa was attacked from the air," Anton Herashchenko, adviser to the interior minister, wrote on his Telegram account.

"Fires were reported in some areas. Some of the missiles were shot down by air defence."

An AFP reporter heard explosions in the southwestern city at around 6:00 am (03:00 GMT).

The blasts sent up at least three columns of black smoke with flames visible apparently in an industrial area.

A soldier near the site of one of the strikes said it was likely a rocket or a missile.

The attack comes as Russian forces appeared to be withdrawing from the country's north.

On Friday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia was consolidating and preparing "powerful strikes" in the south, joining a chorus of Western assessments that Moscow's troops were regrouping.

Odessa, a historic city of around one million people, is Ukraine's largest Black Sea port.

The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground in Ukraine and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 

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6:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

The New Arab's live coverage of the latest from the Russian invasion of Ukraine concludes for today.

Here were the key developments from Sunday:

Ukraine, West accuse Russia of war crimes

Ukraine and Western nations accused Russian troops of war crimes after the discovery of mass graves and "executed" civilians near Kyiv.

Britain, France, Germany, the US and NATO voiced horror at Ukrainian reports of nearly 300 bodies lying in the street in Bucha, with some appearing to have been bound by their hands and feet before being shot.

Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said the state had recovered 410 civilian bodies from areas it recently retook from the Russian army in the wider Kyiv region.

Air strikes hit Odessa

Air strikes rocked Ukraine's strategic Black Sea port Odessa on Sunday morning, but the army says there were no casualties.

West calls for investigation

Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union all called for those responsible for the Bucha killings to be brought to book at the international tribunal in The Hague.

EU chief vows more sanctions

EU chief Charles Michel pledged further sanctions on Moscow as he condemns "atrocities" near Kyiv.

Russia says full isolation 'impossible'

"There can be no complete vacuum or isolation of Russia, it is technologically impossible in the modern world," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state TV.

Too soon for peace summit

Russia's chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said it is too early for a top-level meeting between Zelensky and Putin on ending the conflict.

Mines and booby traps

Zelensky accused Russian soldiers of planting mines and other booby traps as they withdraw from northern Ukraine.

Lithuanian filmmaker killed

Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius was killed trying to flee Ukraine's city of Mariupol besieged by the Russians, the Ukrainian military says.

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5:15 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukrainian prosecutors say 410 bodies found in towns near Kyiv

Ukrainian prosecutors investigating possible war crimes by Russia have found 410 bodies in towns near Kyiv and 140 of them had been examined, Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova said on television on Sunday.

Russia denied allegations that its forces killed civilians in the town of Bucha near Kyiv.


5:00 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Over half a million people have returned to Ukraine: official

More than half a million people have returned to Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion in February, the Ukrainian interior ministry said on Sunday.

"During the past week, 144,000 people left Ukraine and 88,000 arrived. In total... around 537,000 of our compatriots have returned to Ukraine," the ministry said, citing data from the national border service.

The High Commissioner for Refugees on Saturday said 4,176,401 Ukrainians have left their country since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February.

In total, more than 10 million people have either left their homes, either to leave for neighbouring countries or be displaced within Ukraine.

Before the war, 37 million people lived in territories controlled by Kyiv. That figure does not include the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014 or two eastern regions controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.

Almost 4.2 million people have left Ukraine since 24 February [NurPhoto via Getty]
4:10 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russia denies it massacred civilians in Bucha

Moscow has denied that it massacred civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Russian state media has reported, after Kyiv shared images of victims found in mass graves.

The bodies of nearly 300 civilians were found in mass graves in the town near the capital Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the area on Saturday, local Ukrainian officials said.

All photos published by Ukraine related to Bucha are a "provocation", state media agency RIA reported the Russian defence ministry as saying.

All of Russia's troops had left Bucha by 30 March, Russian news agency Interfax reported Moscow as saying.

3:35 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Zelensky says Russian forces committing 'genocide'

President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing genocide and attempting to eliminate the "whole nation" of Ukraine, a day after the discovery of mass graves and apparently executed civilians near Kyiv.

"This is genocide. The elimination of the whole nation and the people," Zelensky told the CBS program 'Face the Nation', according to a transcript provided by the network.

"We are citizens of Ukraine and we don't want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed and exterminated," Zelensky said, according to the CBS transcript.

"And this is happening in the Europe of the 21st century. So this is the torture of the whole nation," he added.

2:42 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Blinken calls civilian killings in Bucha 'a punch to the gut'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the sight of multiple civilian bodies strewn along the streets of Bucha in Ukraine is a "punch to the gut."

"You can't help but see these images as a punch to the gut," Blinken told CNN a day after horrific footage was widely aired of the town retaken from Russian forces.

"This is the reality of what's going on every single day as long as Russia's brutality against Ukraine continues," Blinken said.

1:49 PM
The New Arab Staff

Western governments, Human Rights Watch condemn 'war crimes' after Bucha massacre

A number of European governments have accused Russia of committing a massacre in the town of Bucha.

The bodies of nearly 300 civilians were found in mass graves in the town near the capital Kyiv after Russian troops withdrew from the area on Saturday, local Ukrainian officials said.

Germany called the massacre a "terrible war crime" and called for fresh EU sanctions against Russia.

British foreign secretary Liz Truss said Russia's attacks on civilians in Bucha and elsewhere must be investigated as war crimes.

Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that it had documented what it described as "apparent war crimes" committed by Russian military forces against civilians.

“The cases we documented amount to unspeakable, deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, HRW's Europe and Central Asia director.

Russia has so far not commented publicly on the claims of a massacre in Bucha. Moscow has previously repeatedly denied Ukrainian claims that it has targeted civilians.

Bucha's mayor says the town has been left littered with corpses [AFP via Getty]
1:27 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Kremlin says 'impossible' to fully isolate Russia

The Kremlin said Sunday it is not possible to completely isolate Russia as the West continues piling sanctions on Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine.

"There can be no complete vacuum or isolation of Russia, it is technologically impossible in the modern world," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state TV.

The world is "much larger than Europe", he said, adding: "Sooner or later we will have to build a dialogue, whether some overseas want it or not."

Western capitals slapped Russia with unprecedented economic sanctions after Moscow moved troops into Ukraine on 24 February. There are also travel bans and asset freezes on a number of government figures, including President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking about the possibility of Putin meeting Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, Peskov said it would be "hypothetically possible" but would require a written document agreed by both sides at peace negotiations with Kyiv.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia's top negotiator in ceasefire talks with Ukraine said it was too early for a top-level meeting on ending the conflict.

12:19 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Blasts heard in Russian city of Belgorod near Ukraine border: witnesses

Two blasts were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, two witnesses told Reuters, days after Russian authorities accused Ukrainian forces of striking a fuel depot there.

The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear. One witness said the blasts were so powerful that they rattled the windows of her home in Belgorod.

The blasts come days after Russia's defence ministry said two Ukrainian helicopters struck a fuel depot in the city, some 35 km (22 miles) from the border with Ukraine, after entering Russia at extremely low altitude in the early hours of Friday.

The Kremlin said the incident could undermine peace efforts, while a top Ukrainian security official denied responsibility.

A local official from the region around Belgorod said there had been a blast in the village of Tomarovka on Sunday but that no one had been hurt and no property damaged.

"There was a bang, debris fell onto the ground," Oleg Medvedev, head of the Yakovlevsky city district outside Belgorod, wrote on Telegram.

He did not elaborate on the nature of the debris nor on the cause of the blast. It was unclear if the blast described by Medvedev was one of the blasts heard by the witnesses.


Ukrainian helicopters struck a fuel depot in Belgorod on Friday [Anadolu via Getty]
11:52 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukraine March grain exports fall sharply vs Feb: ministry

Ukrainian grain exports in March were four times less than February levels due to the Russian invasion, the economy ministry said on Sunday.

March grain shipments overseas included 1.1 million tonnes of corn, 309,000 tonnes of wheat, and 118,000 tonnes of sunoil, the ministry added.

Ukraine was the world's fourth-largest grain exporter in the 2020/21 season, according to International Grains Council data, with most of its commodities shipped out via the Black Sea.

But with war raging along much of the coast, traders are being forced to transport more grain by rail.


11:21 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russian negotiator says too early for top meeting on Ukraine

Russia's lead negotiator in peace talks with Ukraine said Sunday it was too early for a top-level meeting on ending the conflict.

"The Ukrainian side has become more realistic in its approach to issues related to the neutral and non-nuclear status of Ukraine but the draft agreement is not ready for submission to a summit meeting," Vladimir Medinsky said on Telegram.

Ukraine's top negotiator David Arakhamia said Saturday that Moscow had "verbally" agreed to key Ukrainian proposals, raising hopes that talks to end fighting were moving forward.

10:56 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Lithuanian documentary maker killed in Mariupol

Lithuanian film director Mantas Kvedaravicius was killed on Saturday in Mariupol, a city whose fate he had documented for many years.

"While trying to leave Mariupol, Russian occupiers killed Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius," the the Ukrainian defence ministry's information agency tweeted on Sunday.

"We lost a creator well known in Lithuania and in the whole world, who until the very last moment, in spite of danger, worked in Russia-occupied Ukraine," Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said.

Kvedaravicius was best known for his conflict-zone documentary "Mariupolis", which premiered at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.

The film paints a portrait of Mariupol, a strategic port is in the breakaway region of Donetsk where pro-Russian fighters have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

"(...) Mantas Kvedaravicius, was murdered today in Mariupol, with a camera in his hands, in this shitty war of evil, against the whole world," Russian film director Vitaly Mansky, founder of the festival Artdocfest in which Kvedaravicius was a participant, said on Facebook. 


10:42 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

EU chief vows more sanctions after Russian army 'atrocities' near Kyiv

EU chief Charles Michel on Sunday pledged further sanctions on Moscow as he condemned "atrocities" carried out by Russian forces outside Ukraine's capital Kyiv.

"Shocked by haunting images of atrocities committed by Russian army in Kyiv liberated region #BuchaMassacre," European Council head Michel wrote on Twitter.

"EU is assisting Ukraine & NGO's in gathering of necessary evidence for pursuit in international courts."

10:20 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Poland would like more US troops in Europe, says ruling party boss

Poland would welcome a 50% increase in the number of US troops in Europe, the leader of the country's ruling party said in comments published on Sunday, as Warsaw calls for tougher action against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine.

The invasion of Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called a "special military operation" to demilitarise its neighbour, has fueled security fears in states on NATO's eastern flank.

The alliance has responded by increasing its presence in the region, announcing four more multinational battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia last month.

"Poland would be pleased if the Americans increased their presence in Europe from the current 100,000 soldiers up to 150,000 in the future due to Russia's increasing aggressiveness," Jaroslaw Kaczynski told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

"Of these, 75,000 soldiers should be stationed on the eastern flank; ie, on the border with Russia; 50,000 soldiers in the Baltic states and Poland," he said in the interview, which was also published on the website of Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS).

Kaczynski also said that Poland would be "open" to having nuclear weapons stationed in the country but that this was not something currently under consideration.

There were roughly 80,000 US troops in Europe before Russian troops moved into Ukraine.

9:50 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russian missiles strike oil plant in Odessa

The Russian military says it has struck an oil processing plant and fuel depots around the strategic Black Sea port of Odessa.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Russian ships and aircraft fired missiles on Sunday to strike the facilities, which he said were used to provide fuel to Ukrainian troops near Mykolaiv.

Konashenkov also said Russian strikes destroyed ammunition depots in Kostiantynivka and Khresyshche.

In an audio message posted by Italian news agency ANSA, Italian photographer Carlo Orlandi said Odessa woke to military sirens at 5:45 am Sunday, followed immediately by the sounds of bombs falling on the port city from two aircraft.

He described a column of dark smoke rising from the targets, and flames from the buildings.

“What we can see is a dense screen of dark smoke, and one explosion after the other,″ Orlandi said.

Air strikes rocked Odessa on Sunday morning [Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty]
8:44 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russia preventing Ukraine resupply by Black Sea: UK military intelligence

Russian naval forces continue to blockade the Ukrainian coast on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, preventing resupply by sea, British military intelligence said on Sunday.

Russia retains the capability to attempt an amphibious landing, but such an operation is likely to be increasingly high risk due to the time Ukrainian forces have had to prepare, the Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.

"Mines within the Black Sea pose a serious risk to maritime activity," it said.

The report said the origin of the mines was unclear and disputed but that they were almost certainly the result of Russian naval activity in the area, demonstrating how its invasion of Ukraine is affecting neutral and civilian interests.


8:25 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Mariupol evacuation attempts to continue Sunday: Ukraine deputy PM

Work on evacuating people with the help of the Red Cross from Mariupol will continue on Sunday with buses attempting to come close to the besieged city, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"Seven buses will try to get closer to Mariupol, accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross," Vereshchuk said in an online video posting.

There will be 17 buses prepared to evacuate people from Mariupol and Berdyansk, she said.