President Zelensky condemns ‘horror’ of Russian shelling in Odesa as eight killed including three-month baby

President Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned the “horror” of Russian shelling in the southern port city of Odesa after several people were killed in attacks during Easter celebrations on Saturday.

Speaking in a news conference from the platform of a Kyiv metro station, the Ukrainian leader said Russian missile strikes on a residential building in Odesa showed the “barbarism” of President Vladimir Putin’s army.

“It will be in history books. Little kids will stand up and tell their teachers where racism began, and who won in the war against this terrible thing,” he said. “It’s simply horror. And during these [Easter] days — they just don’t care.”

Eight people died in an attack on the southern port city on Saturday, including a three month-old baby. President Zelensky slammed Russian troops responsible for the assault as “rotten b*stards,” noting that the infant killed was just one month old when the war began.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said Russia launched at least six missiles on the coastal city, which has remained relatively untouched since the start of the invasion. Ukrainian forces were able to shoot down several missiles but at least one landed on the southern port city, he added.

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Locals reported being forced to leave behind their Orthodox Easter celebrations and head to nearby bomb shelters as air raid sirens rang out across the city.

In an especially lucid address to the nation on Saturday, President Zelensky also accused Russia of living in a “virtual reality”.

“You should return to the real, civilised world. It’s wonderful. Truth is wonderful,” he said, adding that the world had not seen “such barbarism in 80 years”.

The Ukrainian leader warned that Russian aggression would not stop at his country’s borders, and that President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “intended only as a beginning”. “Then they want to capture other countries,” he said.

It comes after a senior Russian military figure appeared to reveal on Friday that the Kremlin has its sights set further afield, including a potential invasion of Moldova.

Major General Rustam Minnekayev said Russia’s chief objective was to secure “full control” over the south and east of Ukraine in a renewed offensive, moving past Crimea to link up with the separatist territory of Transnistria in Moldova.

Miliary experts have warned that capturing Odesa will prove a critical part of Russia’s strategy to gain full control of Ukraine’s southeastern axis.

Global leaders have pledged further aid to Ukraine as Russian ramps up its assault in the east of the country.

Boris Johnson promised on Saturday that the UK will embark on a “new phase” of military support to Ukraine. He announced in a phone call with President Zelensky that Britain would provide protected mobility vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian leader thanked Mr Johnson for currently training members of his military on UK soil, after more than 20 Ukrainian soldiers arrived in Britain last week.

Emergency service workers extinguish fire after a missile strike in Odesa on 23 April 2022(Photo: State Emergency Service Of Ukraine in Odesa Oblast/Reuters)
Firefighters walk past an apartment building damaged by Russian shelling in Odesa, (Photo: Max Pshybyshevsky/AP)

President Zelensky also announced that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Ukraine’s capital on Sunday to discuss further military support.

It comes after Russia appeared to renege on promises not to storm the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on Saturday, where thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians are currently sheltering.

Oleksiy Arestovych, Ukraine’s presidential adviser, said Moscow “resumed air strikes on the territory of the plant, on the defence lines of our troops and is attempting to carry out assault operations”.

It comes despite President Putin’s announcement earlier this week that he had ordered his military to call off an assault on the steelworks, claiming that Russia had “liberated” Mariupol.

The Kremlin leader said he had instructed Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, to blockade the industrial plant so that not even “a fly” could pass unnoticed. He said that anyone who surrendered would be treated well.

Ukraine has resisted the calls, with President Zelensky vowing that his troops would not give in to Mr Putin’s demands.

Ukrainian officials also claimed Russia’s military “thwarted” the evacuation of civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol on Saturday.

Evacuations from the city were due to restart at 9am GMT on Saturday morning but were called off because of shelling in the region.

Pyotr Andryushchenko, an aide to the city’s mayor, said on Telegram that Russian troops had dispersed around 200 civilians who had assembled to await evacuation buses, telling them “there will be shelling now.”

Previous evacuation efforts have repeatedly failed due to heavy fighting.

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