Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Russia of launching a “deliberate” attack overnight on grain infrastructure at the Black Sea port of Odesa, while a blast and fire at a Russian ammunition depot in annexed Crimea early on July 19 prompted a mass evacuation and the closure of a highway.
Live Briefing: Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine
RFE/RL’s Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia’s full-scale invasion, Kyiv’s counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.
The overnight attack on the Odesa area was the “most massive” since the beginning of the war, the region’s military administration told RFE/RL. Another official said it was “a hellish night.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry said strikes on Odesa were retaliation against facilities where it claimed Ukraine was building seaborne drones of the type that Moscow says damaged a bridge in the annexed region of Crimea.
But Zelenskiy said on his Telegram channel that the Russian strikes had “deliberately” targeted sites in the Odesa region that are used to export grain just hours after Russia refused to extend a UN-sponsored deal that had allowed shipments of Ukrainian grain abroad.
“Russian terrorists deliberately targeted the grain deal infrastructure, and every Russian missile is a blow not only to Ukraine, but to everyone in the world who wants a normal and safe life,” Zelenskiy said.
Ukraine’s air defense said it shot down 23 Iranian-made drones and 14 cruise missiles launched by Russia that mostly targeted Odesa and its surroundings.
Russia used Iranian-made drones and cruise missiles, most of which were shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses, the military administration reported, adding that one civilian worker was wounded. An industrial facility as well as tobacco and fireworks warehouses were hit, it said.
The attack on Odesa was the second one in as many days after Russia vowed “revenge” following an explosion on the bridge linking annexed Crimea with Russia that Moscow had blamed on Ukraine.
The attack on the bridge killed two people and wounded one teenage girl while road traffic was temporarily restricted.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for what it said was “a terrorist attack,” and President Vladimir Putin vowed retaliation.
Kyiv was also targeted by Russian drones overnight, Serhiy Popko, the head of the capital’s military administration reported early on July 19, adding that Ukrainian air defenses destroyed all incoming drones and there were no immediate reports of victims or damage.
Russia “again attacked the capital with [Iranian-made] Shaheds. To no avail,” Popko wrote on Telegram.
Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko confirmed media reports about explosions in the capital and said they were the result of the city’s air-defense activity.
Air raid alerts sounded in the central, eastern, and southern regions of Ukraine early on July 19. The western regions of Rivne and Khmelnytskiy were also placed under air raid alerts early in the morning.
In Crimea, Moscow-installed Governor Sergei Aksyonov said the fire near a military training ground had prompted the evacuation of some 2,000 people and partially closed the nearby Tavrida Highway.
Aksyonov did not give details about the cause of the fire or potential victims, but Telegram channels linked to Russian security services and Ukrainian media reported that an ammunition depot exploded at the base after a Ukrainian overnight air attack.
Unverified videos circulating on social media show a large fire in the distance and sparks flying from the apparent detonation of ammunition.
A post on Telegram attributed to Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of Ukraine’s military intelligence (GUR), claimed that Ukraine was responsible for the attack on the Russian depot.
But the GUR military later denied that Budanov had issued the comment.
Spokesman Andriy Yusov said in an interview with broadcaster Suspilne that the comments, carried by several media outlets, “were fake.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops forced Russians to retreat from Orikhovo-Vasylyvka, just northwest of Bakhmut, in the eastern region of Donetsk, Andriy Kovalev, a spokesman for the military, said on July 19.
Russia captured Bakhmut in May after one of the longest and bloodiest battles since the beginning of the war in February 2022.
But since the start of their counteroffensive, Ukrainian forces have advanced on the northern and southern flanks of the city.
The United States announced additional security assistance for Ukraine totaling about $1.3 billion on July 19. The package including air-defense capabilities and munitions.
“This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine,” the Pentagon said in a statement.