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ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia has shelled the vital port of Odessa in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday, as they announced they had found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a northeast building that was destroyed weeks ago.
The bodies were found in a five-storey building that collapsed in March in Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the city of Kharkiv, which has come under sustained Russian attack since the war began in late February.
“This is another horrible war crime by the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!” said Oleh Synehubov, the head of the regional administration, in a social media post announcing the deaths.
Izyum sits on a key route to the eastern industrial region of Donbass, now at the center of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Synehubov did not specify where the building was located.
Earlier, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces fired seven missiles a day earlier from the air at the crucial Black Sea port of Odessa, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse. One person was killed and five others injured, the army said.
Ukraine alleged that at least some of the munitions used dated back to the Soviet era, making them unreliable for targeting. Ukrainian, British and American officials are warning that Russia is rapidly depleting its stockpile of precision weapons and may not be able to build more soon, raising the risk of more inaccurate rockets being delivered. used as the conflict continues. This could lead to greater damage and more civilian deaths.
But the Center for Defense Strategies, a Ukrainian think tank that tracks the war, said Moscow used precision weapons against Odessa: Kinzhal, or “Dagger,” hypersonic air-to-surface missiles.
The use of advanced guided missiles allows Russia to fire from a distance without being exposed to possible anti-aircraft fire.
The strikes took place on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his country’s biggest patriotic holiday without being able to boast of major new battlefield successes. On Monday, he watched troops march in formation and military equipment parade in a Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945 .
Many Western analysts expected Putin to use the VE Day holiday to trumpet some sort of victory in Ukraine or announce an escalation, but he did neither. Instead, he sought to re-justify war as a necessary response to what he described as a hostile Ukraine.
Putin has long bristled at NATO’s eastward advance into the former Soviet republics. Ukraine and its Western allies have denied that the country poses a threat.
“The danger was increasing day by day,” Putin said. “Russia gave a preventive response to the aggression. It was forced, timely and the only correct decision.
Intense fighting also raged in eastern Ukraine, including at a steelworks in Mariupol, where Russian forces sought to end resistance from Ukrainian defenders making their last stand.
One of the Ukrainian fighters who stood at the steel plant said they were still defending the city. Valeri Paditel, who heads the border guards in the Donetsk region, said the fighters were “doing everything to make those who will defend the city proud in the future”.
Ukraine’s military warned on Tuesday that Russia could target the country’s chemical industries. The claim was not immediately explained in the report. But Russian bombings have already targeted oil depots and other industrial sites during the war.
Russia has about 97 battalion battlegroups in Ukraine, mostly in the east and south, a slight increase from last week, according to a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon assessment. Each unit has about 1,000 soldiers, according to the Pentagon.
The official said that overall the Russian effort in Donbass has not made significant progress in recent days and continues to face strong resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Satellite photos showed intense fires in Russian-held territory in southern Ukraine on Monday. The cause of the fires was not immediately clear. However, Planet Labs images showed thick smoke rising east of Vasylivka, a town flanked by nature reserves.

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