Russian forces launched waves of missiles and attack drones at Odesa overnight, Ukrainian officials said early Monday, the latest strikes on the southern port city amid heightened tensions in the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian military’s southern command said that air defenses intercepted eight cruise missiles and 15 attack drones that were launched in multiple waves. Fragments from the downed missiles damaged a supermarket and injured three of its employees, the southern command said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app, adding that two fires briefly broke out and a school dormitory also sustained damage.
“The target was the city center of Odesa,” Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the southern command, said on national television. “The missiles had to be shot down right over the city, over residential areas.”
The claims could not immediately be independently verified.
The attacks on Odesa came just hours after Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday claimed that one of its patrol ships in the Black Sea had fired warning shots at a cargo vessel that had failed to stop for inspection.
It said that the cargo ship stopped after the “warning fire” and Russian servicemen boarded to carry out an inspection, then allowed the vessel to continue its journey to the Ukrainian port of Izmail on the Danube River.
The defense ministry’s claims could not be independently verified, and there was no immediate comment from the vessel’s owner.
Tensions have been running high in the Black Sea following Moscow’s decision last month to withdraw from a U.N.-brokered deal ensuring the safe passage of Ukrainian grain exports. At the time, it also issued a warning that any vessels attempting to reach Ukraine would be treated as hostile.
Since then, Russian forces have bombarded Ukrainian ports — including Odesa and Izmail — in what Ukrainian officials said were strikes specifically targeting the country’s ability to ship grain.
Ukraine retaliated last week with two strikes on Russian ships on consecutive days — demonstrating its new reach with sea drones that can hit Russian ports hundreds of miles from its coast. It also put Moscow on notice that six Russian Black Sea ports and the approaches to them would be considered areas of “war risk” until further notice.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned what it called Russia’s “provocative actions,” saying the incident “grossly violated” the international law of the sea.
“We call on the international community to take decisive action to prevent Russian Federation’s actions that impede the peaceful passage of vessels through the Black Sea,” it said in a statement Monday.