ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s vital Black Sea port of Odessa has come under repeated missile attacks, including some hypersonic missiles, after Russia marked its biggest patriotic holiday without giving any new information about the war. Also, a Ukrainian official said the bodies of 44 civilians were found in the rubble of a building destroyed by Russia in March.
The civilians were in a five-story building that collapsed in Izyum, Kharkiv region, said Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional administration.
“This is another horrific war crime committed by the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!” he said in a social media post announcing the deaths.
Izyum is an eastern Ukrainian city that keeps Russia at the forefront as a key hub. Synehubov did not say exactly where the building was located.
Earlier, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven rockets from the air at Odessa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. One person was killed and five injured, the military said.
As part of the barrage, a Russian supersonic bomber fired three hypersonic missiles, according to the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank tracking the war. The center identified the weapons used as Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic air-to-surface missiles.
The Kinzhal can fly at five times the speed of sound and has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles). The use of advanced guided missiles allows Russia to fire from aircraft at a distance without being in Ukrainian airspace and being exposed to potential anti-aircraft fire.
But Ukrainian, British and American officials warn that Russia is rapidly depleting its inventory of precision weapons and may not be able to build more quickly, raising the risk that less accurate missiles will be deployed as the conflict unfolds. That could lead to more civilian deaths and other collateral damage.
The strikes came after Russian President Vladimir Putin marked his country’s biggest patriotic holiday without boasting any major new battlefield victories. He watched as troops marched in formation and military equipment rolled by in a Victory Parade in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945.
Many Western analysts had expected Putin to use Victory Day to trumpet some victory in Ukraine or announce an escalation, but he did neither. Instead, he attempted to justify war again as a necessary response to what he portrayed as hostile Ukraine.
Putin has long resisted NATO advances eastward into former Soviet republics. Ukraine and its western allies have denied the country poses a threat.
“The danger grew day by day,” Putin said. “Russia has reacted pre-emptively to the aggression. It was forced, timely and the only right decision.”
Fierce fighting also raged in eastern Ukraine. And Russian forces attempted to crush resistance from Ukrainian defenders, who were making their last stand at a steel mill in Mariupol.
One of the Ukrainian militants who held out at the steel plant said they were still defending the city. Valeri Paditel, who heads border guards in the Donetsk region, said the fighters would “do everything to make those who will defend the city in the future proud”.
Ukraine’s military warned on Tuesday that Russia could target the country’s chemical industry. The claim was not immediately explained in the report. But Russian shelling has previously targeted oil depots and other industrial sites during the war.
Also, satellite imagery analyzed by The Associated Press showed two ships off Ukraine’s Snake Island on Monday afternoon.
One of the ships seen in the Planet Labs PBC images appeared to be a landing craft. Ukraine has recently repeatedly attacked Russian positions there, suggesting Russian forces may be trying to re-occupy or remove personnel from the Black Sea island.
After unexpectedly fierce resistance forced the Kremlin to abandon efforts to storm Kyiv more than a month ago, Moscow’s troops have focused on conquering Donbass, Ukraine’s eastern industrial region.
But the fighting there went back and forth from village to village. Some analysts suggested that Putin could declare the fighting a war and not just a “special military operation” and order a nationwide mobilization with calls for reserves to combat a widespread conflict.
In the end, he gave no signal as to where the war was going or how to save it. In particular, he left unanswered the question of whether or how Russia would raise more forces for a continued war.
“Without concrete steps to build a new military force, Russia cannot wage a long war, and the clock starts ticking with the failure of its army in Ukraine,” tweeted Phillips P. O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of Russia St .Andrews in Scotland.
Nigel Gould Davies, former British Ambassador to Belarus, said: “Russia did not win this war. It’s starting to lose it.”
He said that unless Russia has a major breakthrough, “the balance of benefits will steadily shift in Ukraine’s favor, particularly as Ukraine gains access to increasing amounts of increasingly sophisticated Western military equipment.”
Air raid sirens rang out again in the Ukrainian capital as Putin laid a wreath in Moscow. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in his own Victory Day address, declared that his country would eventually defeat the Russians.
“Very soon there will be two victory days in Ukraine,” he said in a video. He added: “We’re fighting for freedom, for our children, and that’s why we’re going to win.”
A Zelenskyi adviser interpreted Putin’s speech as indicating that Russia had no interest in escalating the war through the use of nuclear weapons or direct engagement with NATO.
In Washington, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan measure to reinstate the World War II-era “Lend-Lease” program that helped defeat Nazi Germany to strengthen Kyiv and its Eastern European allies.
Russia has about 97 tactical battalion groups in Ukraine, mostly in the east and south, a slight increase from last week, according to a senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment. Each unit has approximately 1,000 troops, according to the Pentagon.
The official said that overall, Russian efforts in Donbass have not made significant progress in recent days and continue to face stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Satellite photos showed intense fires in Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine on Monday. A cause for the fires was not immediately clear. However, images from Planet Labs showed thick smoke billowing east of Vasylivka, a town flanked by nature reserves.