Zelenskiy vows Ukrainian victory as death toll in Odesa strike hits 12

KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday called for the world to help Kyiv defeat “Russian evil” as the death toll from a Russian drone strike on Odesa rose to 12, including five children.

A Russian drone hit an apartment block in the southern port city early Saturday morning, partially destroying several floors and leaving more than a dozen people under the rubble.

The attack killed at least five children, including two babies less than a year old, according to statements by Zelenskiy and the regional governor.

“Mark, who was not even three years old, Yelyzaveta, eight months old, and Timofey, four months old,” Zelenskiy said, naming the youngest victims of the strike in a post on Telegram.

“Ukrainian children are Russia’s military targets,” he said.

Rescuers were still pulling bodies from the rubble on Sunday evening, more than 36 hours after the strike.

Zelenskiy had pleaded Saturday with Kyiv’s Western allies to supply more air defense systems as Russia continues to pound Ukraine with drones, missiles and artillery fire in the war’s third year.

Kyiv is currently on the back foot with Russia having made recent front-line battlefield gains.

Zelenskiy said 215 emergency responders had taken part in an ongoing search and rescue operation in Odesa.

As delays to a crucial $60 billion aid package from the United States have left Kyiv facing ammunition shortages, Zelenskiy said the attack showed the importance of supporting Ukraine.

“We must win this war,” he said Sunday.

“Every Russian loss at the front is our country’s response to Russian terror. The world must respond to every manifestation of Russian evil and repel Russia’s actions.”

Bodies huddled together

There was no comment on the attack in Moscow, which denies targeting civilians despite excessive evidence of Russian strikes on residential areas and the United Nations having verified at least 10,000 civilian deaths since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Ukraine’s emergency services said they had found the bodies of families huddled together as they sifted through the rubble on Sunday.

“A mother tried to cover her eight-month-old baby with her body. They were found in a tight embrace,” the agency said on Telegram.

Odesa Govenor Oleg Kiper said the bodies of a brother and sister, aged 10 and eight, were also found together in the debris on Sunday evening.

Ukraine’s interior ministry separately reported one death and three people wounded in the southern Kherson region, while police said an airstrike on a residential quarter of Kurakhove, a town in the eastern Donetsk region, injured 16.

Russian military bloggers also reported an attempted massive Ukrainian drone attack on the annexed peninsula of Crimea overnight.

Moscow said it shot down 38 Ukrainian drones, while the Rybar Telegram channel, close to Russia’s armed forces, said one hit a pipeline at an oil depot that was the presumed target of the attack.

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.

‘Information war’

A senior Ukrainian commander also accused Russian forces of dropping explosives containing an unspecified chemical substance over the battlefield, and said the situation on the front lines was “complicated, but under control.”

Meanwhile, the fallout from a leaked audio recording of German military officials looked set to sink relations between Moscow and Berlin even lower on Sunday.

A 38-minute recording of German officers discussing the possible use of German-made Taurus missiles by Ukraine and their potential impact was posted on Russian social media late Friday.

Russia has demanded an explanation from Berlin.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Sunday that Moscow was “using this recording to destabilize and unsettle us,” adding that he “hoped that Putin will not succeed.”

“It is part of an information war that Putin is carrying out,” he said. — Agence France-Presse

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