Russian Bombing Can’t Break the Spirit of the Citizens of Odessa

Foreign Policy Brief #85 | By: Yelena Korshunov | August 1, 2023
Photo taken from: Collage by author Yelena Korshunov, Transfiguration Cathedral in Odessa, Ukraine, before and after Russia’s shelling.

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On the night of July 18th Raisa woke up from a terrible roar and heart-rending children’s screams. It seemed like their house was exploding and this is the end. This family was lucky enough to stay alive that night; just the deep crater from the explosion in front of their building and glass shards from broken windows became that night’s gift of “Russian peace”.    

It was a quiet night when a massive shelling of Odessa began. The Russian side justified it as “retaliation strikes” for the explosion on the Crimean bridge. Night after night, Russian missiles not only damaged the infrastructure of the local port, but also destroyed many historical buildings and the Transfiguration Cathedral that was rebuilt in the last century after already being destroyed by the Soviet authority in 1936. Many people died and were injured, including children.

The Russian army launched its attacks immediately after their withdrawal from a UN-brokered grain agreement with Ukraine, which implied guarantees for the safe export of grain from the port of Odessa. On Sunday, July 16, the last vessel with Ukrainian grain left the port, and two days later Russia carried out a large-scale mortal shelling. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stated that the targets of the “precision weapons” were some facilities where terrorists prepared acts against the Russian Federation, fuel storage facilities, and a ship repair plant that produces boats which terrorists would use for their acts. In fact, the beautiful small port temple, a hotel, a restaurant, and private houses were the target of Russia’s missiles. Next night heavy shelling ruined the grain and oil terminals and other port infrastructure. According to the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, 60 tons of grain were destroyed, which, as President Volodymyr Zelensky later clarified, the country was going to send to China. The shelling also left 3,000 people without electricity that night.

On the night of July 23, Russia resumed strikes. This attack was the most destructive yet since the beginning of the war. Russian missiles hit the port infrastructure again and destroyed six residential apartment buildings. The historical center of Odessa was also damaged. Among Russia’s targets were 29 architectural monuments under the protection of UNESCO. These buildings survived the violent destructive revolution of 1917 and World War II, but they apparently bothered the Kremlin too much. The Chinese consulate in Odessa also suffered from that attack. On July 29th a UNESCO mission arrived in Odessa to assess damage.

In the days after the night horror Odessa residents have been leaving their homes and shelters to help the municipal services with the elimination of the shellings ramifications. People go out to sort out the rubble, clean streets, and remove debris from the areas of the tragedy.

After massive attacks on the center of Odessa, the mayor of the city, Gennady Trukhanov, addressed the citizens of Russia in Russian language: ”If you knew how Odessa hates you. Not only hates, but also despises. You are fighting with little children and with churches. Your rockets fly even to cemeteries. During this war, you were called differently: rashists, orcs, scum, nits. But it’s still sweet. You are just creatures without family and tribe, morality and values. And with no future. You don’t know us Odessans very well. You will not break us, but only anger us even more. The strength of our defenders, multiplied by the anger and pain of ordinary people, will be your death sentence.”

 

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