Baby ‘celebrating first easter with family’ among five killed and 18 injured in Odesa missile attack

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Ukrainian firefighters work at the scene of a destroyed building after shelling in Odesa (Petros Giannakouris/AP) (AP)
Ukrainian firefighters work at the scene of a destroyed building after shelling in Odesa (Petros Giannakouris/AP) (AP)

A three-month-old baby is among five killed and 18 injured in a missile strike on Ukraine’s southern port city of Odesa on Saturday, the president’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an online post.

More dead are to be expected officials said after reports that two missiles struck a military facility and two residential buildings in Odesa.

Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, tweeted: “5 killed and 18 wounded citizens. These are those found by now. And most likely, there will be more. Among those killed was a three-month-old baby.

“A child who was about to celebrate the first Easter with his parents. Nothing sacred. Absolutely. Evil will be punished.”

During the attack on Odesa, the Russians fired at least six missiles, Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister. Defense forces repelled some of the rockets, but at least one landed and exploded, he said.

“Residents of the city heard explosions in different areas,” Gerashchenko wrote in a Telegram post. “Residential buildings were hit. It is already known about one victim. He burned in his car in a courtyard of one of the buildings.”

Firefighters walk past an apartment building damaged by Russian shelling (AP)
Firefighters walk past an apartment building damaged by Russian shelling (AP)

The attack came as Russian forces tried to storm a steel plant housing soldiers and civilians in the southern city of Mariupol on Saturday while attempting to crush the last corner of resistance in a place of deep symbolic and strategic value to Moscow, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine military's General Staff said Russian forces were continuing their “offensive operations” in eastern Ukraine with the goal of establishing full control over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and securing “a land route between these territories and the occupied Crimea.”

Ukrainian forces in the past 24 hours repelled eight Russian attacks in the two regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, a tanker and three artillery systems, the General Staff said on its Facebook page on Saturday morning.

Russian forces continue to partially block and shell Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, and are active in the area of Izyum, the update said.

It follows reports that Russian forces are attacking a steel plant that is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the city of Mariupol.

“The enemy is trying to strangle the final resistance of the defenders of Mariupol in the Azovstal area,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on national television.

“They have renewed airstrikes on the plant’s territory, on the area defended by our troops, and are trying to conduct assault operations. Our defenders are holding against a numerically superior enemy, despite an extremely difficult situation, and they even carry out counterattacks,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin had reportedly ordered his defence minister on Thursday to block off the vast Azovstal complex “so not even a fly can get through” rather than try to storm it.

According to Ukrainian officials, some 1,000 civilians, including women and children, remain trapped at Azovstal together with the Ukrainian troops holed up there.

Shocking footage released online shows women and children sheltering underground in the Azovstal plant.

Some of them have been hiding in the plant’s tunnels for as long as two months, according to reports.

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced all the war’s casualties, noting that the Easter holiday commemorates Christ’s resurrection after his death by crucifixion.

“We believe in the victory, of life over death,” he said. “No matter how fierce the battles are, there is no chance for death to defeat life. Everyone knows that. Every Christian knows that.”

Boris Johnson said on Sunday that he had held discussions with President Zelensky about further ways the UK will aid the Ukrainian people including helping the government collect evidence of Russian war crimes.

He tweeted: “We are providing further military aid, including protected mobility vehicles. We have issued new sanctions against members of the Russian military.

“We will be reopening our embassy in Kyiv, demonstrating our solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

“And the UK government is helping to collect evidence of war crimes. Russia must be held to account for its actions.”

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