Russian missiles badly damaged dozens of Ukrainian architectural landmarks, including a historic Orthodox cathedral in the southern port city of Odesa, sparking outrage and prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to vow retaliation.
The strikes – the latest in a wave of attacks on Odesa – killed at least one person and injured several others, Ukrainian officials said. At least 25 architectural monuments were destroyed, a regional military official said.
“Russians deliberately aimed their missiles at the historic city center of Odesa, which is under the UNESCO protection. Everything that was built with hard work by great architects is now being destroyed by cynical inhumans,” Oleh Kiper said.
Some of the other cultural sites damaged include the House of Scientists and Zhvanetskyi Boulevard, Odesa’s Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said Sunday. Several historic mansions were also destroyed.
The Transfiguration Cathedral is Odesa’s largest church building. It was consecrated in 1809, destroyed during the Soviet era in 1936 before being rebuilt when Ukraine became an independent nation.
The cathedral lies in Odesa’s city center, which UNESCO named a World Heritage Site amid the threat of Russia’s invasion.
Video showed the inside of the cathedral strewn with debris. Ukrainian officials said the icon of the patroness of the city had been retrieved from under the rubble.
Odesa is a key cultural center, and has long links with Russia. It was founded under Catherine the Great and was once Russia’s second most important port.
The Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko called for Russia’s expulsion from UNESCO, accusing Moscow of “endangering peaceful citizens and World Heritage property.”
Moldovan President Maia Sandu said on Sunday of the attacks: “It’s heart-wrenching to follow the scenes of destruction in Odesa, a city dear to many Moldovans,” adding: “We condemn Russia’s continued air assaults on peaceful cities, residential districts, and the UNESCO preserved historic center.”
Ukraine’s Operational Command said on Telegram “dozens of cars were damaged, facades and roofs of many buildings in the city were damaged and windows were blown out” in the strikes.
“Several craters have been formed in the city. There are power outages, which may hamper traffic and the route of public transport may be changed.”
‘Evil will lose’
Julia Gorodetska, a Ukrainian journalist who was caught up in the overnight attacks, wrote on her Facebook account that her house was left “shaking and bouncing.”
“It’s loud. Powerful. I’ve jumped up like a mountain goat and ran into the corridor. Nothing hurts anymore, there’s no depression. I desperately want to live,” she said, describing the moment the explosions hit.
The Russian Ministry of Defense denied targeting the cathedral and said it carried out attacks on where “terrorist acts” were being prepared. “All targets scheduled for attack were destroyed,” a statement added.
Ukraine has been struggling in the past week to repel a wave of Russian strikes against Odesa – its air defenses unable to cope with the types of missiles that Moscow has used to pummel the region.
In a statement on Sunday, Ukrainian President Zelensky condemned Moscow latest attack.
“Missiles against peaceful cities, against residential buildings, a cathedral … There can be no excuse for Russian evil,” Zelensky said. “As always, this evil will lose and there will definitely be a retaliation to Russian terrorists for Odesa. They will feel this retaliation,” he said.
“I am grateful to everyone who is helping people and to everyone who is with Odesa in their thoughts and emotions. We will get through this. We will restore peace. And for this, we must defeat the Russian evil.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that “Russia has already damaged hundreds of cultural sites, trying to destroy Ukraine.” He called the destruction of the Transfiguration Cathedral “another war crime” committed by Russia.
Elsewhere local military commanders reported at least two deaths following Russian overnight strikes in the Kharkhiv region, among them a 57-year-old woman and 45-year-old man killed in the Dvorichna district by shelling.
“Over the past day, the enemy has been massively shelling settlements in Kharkiv, Chuhuiv, Kupyansk and Izium districts with artillery, mortars and aircraft,” Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv region military administration, said on Telegram.
Civilian industry buildings including at least three houses and outbuildings were also damaged as a result of the attacks on Kupyansk with rocket launchers, cannon artillery and mortars.
“Our defenders are holding their positions in the Kupyansk sector. The enemy has made no progress,” Syniehubov said.