Zelensky calls for more Western air defence systems to 'save lives'

Russian attack on a nine-storey building in Odesa kills at least five people, including a child, says Ukrainian minister

By AFP

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Rescuers remove the body of a local resident at the site of a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike in Odesa. — Reuters
Rescuers remove the body of a local resident at the site of a residential building heavily damaged by a Russian drone strike in Odesa. — Reuters

Published: Sat 2 Mar 2024, 6:53 PM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged the West to deliver more air defence systems as a wave of Russian missile, drone and artillery strikes killed at least eight people.

Five were left dead, including a two-year-old child, after an overnight strike on the southern port city of Odesa while separate shelling attacks on the frontline Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions killed three, Ukrainian officials said.


"Russia continues to hit civilians," Zelensky said in a post on social media.

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"We need more air defences from our partners. We need to strengthen the Ukrainian air shield to add more protection for our people from Russian terror. More air defence systems and more missiles for air defence systems save lives," he said.

Ukraine is currently on the back foot in the two-year war as a crucial $60-billion aid package is held up in the United States congress.

In Odesa, "a nine-storey building was destroyed as a result of an attack by Russian terrorists," Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said on Saturday in a post on Telegram.

The attack killed at least five people, including a child, and injured eight, Ukraine's emergency services said.

The child was two years old, Odesa region Governor Oleg Kiper said on state TV.

Others were still unaccounted for, with almost 100 rescuers searching the rubble on Saturday for survivors or the bodies of more victims.

Footage shared from the scene showed several floors of a residential building collapsed and its facade ripped off.

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, a 76-year-old man was killed in a shelling attack shortly after midnight, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said.

And shelling in the frontline Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south on Saturday morning killed two more, the provincial heads said.

Ukraine's air force said that Russia had launched 17 Iranian "Shahed" drones overnight and fired three missiles.

It said it downed 14 of the drones, but falling debris caused damage to residential buildings in Odesa and Kharkiv.

Kyiv also appeared to have launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia's second city.

Videos on Russian social media showed what appeared to be a drone spiralling downwards into the building, triggering an explosion, blowing out windows and causing small fires.

The city's National Guard division said its preliminary assumption was the damage was caused by a "falling drone".

Ukrainian media reported that the drone was shot down by Russia's air defences while targeting an oil depot around a kilometre from the crash site.

Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow's attacks on Ukraine's power grid.

Russia's Investigative Committee also said that four of its officials had been injured when a Ukrainian drone dropped explosives over the Bryansk border region.

The attacks come with Russia seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield.

Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages amid aid delays.

Half of all promised Western ammunition arrives in the country late, the defence minister has said, in what he called critical delays that cost lives and territory.

Russian forces have advanced westwards following last month's capture of Avdiivka, and have seized several small villages in recent days.

Visiting frontline military posts on Saturday, Ukraine's new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said "the situation at the front remains difficult, but controlled".

Russia also expressed outrage at what appeared to be a leak of confidential German army talks in which officers allegedly discussed missile strikes on the annexed Crimean peninsula.


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