Missiles hit Ukrainian coastal city of Odessa

On Saturday, six Russian cruise missiles fired from planes hit the Odessa region, where authorities have put in place a curfew until Tuesday morning. Videos posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising over Odessa with sirens wailing in the background.

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Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showed Ukraine targeting Russian-held Snake Island in an attempt to obstruct Russian efforts to control the Black Sea. A satellite image taken early Saturday by Planet Labs PBC showed what appeared to be a Serna-class landing craft against the island’s north beach.

Against this background, Ukrainian fighters took a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of Mariupol. Securing the strategically important Sea of ​​Azov port would give Moscow a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in a 2014 invasion.

New satellite photos analyzed by the AP showed vast devastation at a sprawling seaside steelworks that is the last corner of Ukrainian resistance in the city. The Azovstal factory buildings, including one under which hundreds of fighters and civilians are likely hiding, had large gaping holes in the roof, according to the footage.

The evacuation of civilians from the factory has caught the world’s attention, with the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross desperately trying to organize the departures.

A man who was evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant receives a hot meal. Credit:PA

In recent days, fighters inside the factory had described bringing out small groups of civilians who had been hiding for weeks. The fighters released a statement via social media saying they and the Russians used a white flag system to stop the fighting to get civilians out.

But Russian forces have intensified fire on the steelworks in recent days with mortars, artillery, truck-mounted rocket systems, aerial bombardment and shelling from the sea, making evacuation operations difficult.

The Ukrainian government has called on international organizations to also help evacuate the fighters defending the factory. According to Russia’s most recent estimate, about 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remained in the Azovstal steelworks. They repeatedly refused to surrender.

The relief of those who were evacuated was tempered by the memory of those who remained.

“They really need our help,” said Serhii Kuzmenko, 31, who fled with his wife, 8-year-old daughter and four others from their bunker, leaving 30 others behind. “We have to get them out.”

Separately, a Russian missile on Saturday destroyed a Ukrainian national museum dedicated to the life and work of an 18th-century philosopher, the local council said.

Zelensky said in his evening speech that “the extraordinary strength of the Ukrainian position” lies in the fact that all countries in the free world understand what is at stake in this ruinous war.

“We are defending ourselves against an onslaught of tyranny that wants to destroy everything freedom gives to peoples and states,” said the Ukrainian leader. “And such a struggle, for freedom and against tyranny, is fully understandable for any society, in any corner of the globe.”

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