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EXCLUSIVE in-depth Odesa Drones Air Defenses

Odesa: Standing Firm Against Regular Russian Attacks

The number of missile or drone strikes over the past month exceeds, according to the heads of the region, the total number over the past two years, officials say.

May. 9

Odesa, Ukraine’s largest city after the capital Kyiv, and the eastern city of Kharkiv, is now joining Kharkiv in being a place made increasingly difficult to live a normal life in due to the regular Russian attacks. But that’s not stopping most Odesans. 

The port city is frequently targeted with ballistic missiles and kamikaze drones from occupied Crimea – which lies over the Black Sea, some 315 kilometers (195 miles) away. 

Kyiv Post visited Odesa – to witness the consequences of recent Russian strikes and share them with you. 

Shattered metal and broken windows are what remains of what was one of the largest postal companies in Ukraine. It was flattened by a Russian missile on the night of May 2.

The fire was visible from distant parts of the city.

Kyiv Post reporters waited out the attack in an underground passage, together with dozens of other Odesa residents.

Firefighters tried to put out the fire with flammable insulation materials all night.

“It was difficult. It was hell,” one of the rescuers told us.

Odesa residents were shocked. One of them, Ihor, worked in an office near the destroyed terminal.

“This animal is worse than Hitler. Putin is a f*****g bastard,” Ihor said, looking around the place he’d been working for “his whole life.”

Inside – thousands of parcels were destroyed. Nearby several service stations and shops were smashed. A warehouse of ornamental plants burned down – the owners lost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Our gardens had such plants, such trees, and we used expensive equipment to pack them. For example, this pine tree costs three-and-a-half-thousand hryvnias, and such a tree costs seven-and-a-half,” Valeria, a company representative said.

That night, 16 residents of Odesa were injured.

Fortunately, no one died.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

In the city, an air alarm is sounded several times a day, and Odesa residents have to go down to shelters.

Taking Odesa was one of the key goals of the Russian army in 2022. That goal was never achieved.

Although – evidenced by the mass graves and torture sites discovered in liberated areas, Russian occupation would have been worse – not being taken over by the Russians means that as an Odesan, you have to regularly accept that today could be the day a missile or drone hits your home.

The number of missile or drone strikes over the past month exceeds, according to the heads of the region, the total number over the past two years.

The death toll of civilians since the starts of Russia’s full-scale invasion now numbers in the hundreds – with dozens just in recent months.

Residential buildings, churches, hotels, and even tourist and park areas come under attack.

During a cluster munition strike on April 29, five people were killed and more than 30 injured.

“I was running, I saw a woman lying near a bench,” Maryna Averina, a press officer of the Rescue Service, who goes to the scene with her colleagues, said. “The first thing I saw was a brain spilling out of her head. I took a picture of it from the other side, so as not to injure people. There were a lot of bloodstained towels and napkins around. This strike was a targeted killing of civilians, all the dead were civilians. It was in a large open square, they had nowhere to go, it was a deliberate murder of citizens.”  

Odesa Fire Station Commmander Oleg Kotelevsky, who fought the fire at the postal terminal all night, said that the worst thing is to see the bodies of children buried under the rubble of houses flattened by Russian attacks.

“To see how children who have not yet seen life are maimed, mutilated.  The personnel who work are also most worried about children – so that they recover and return to their families. This is the most difficult part,” Kotelevsky said.

To hit as many civilian targets as possible, the Russian practice, as in Kharkiv, is double-tap strikes – where a second strike follows a few minutes after a first. Its aim is to kill the medics and other rescuers who come to help the victims.

“One of these egregious cases is on March 15 of this year, when rescuers arrived at the scene. There was an air alert, but since there was a hit in residential buildings, it was decided not to wait for the end of the alarm, but to start rescue operations. And when rescuers and medics arrived, there was a second arrival at the same place, two of our rescuers were killed, and eight were injured. In general, then, 21 people died in that place,” Averina said.

An example of this sort of attack can be seen in a house in the center of Odesa. It was hit by several Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones. Dozens of people were injured. Many people were burned by the fire.

Activist Vladyslav Balynsky, who lives nearby, witnessed the attack a little over two months ago.

“Three drones arrived in this yard. One was knocked down, and it hit the facade, several apartments burned down, the masonry was destroyed in places. The other one arrived from the side of the building, leaving a crater about three meters wide. Another drone fell into the yard, causing a strong fire that consumed everything, including baby strollers, benches, and cars,” Balinsky told Kyiv Post.

Olexander, a resident of the house, saw it all from the inside.

“How do you explain your emotions when you have to carry a barefoot child through broken glass in a fire to a shelter? Miraculously, they didn't suffer much, it flew right over the playground,” he said.

So why does Russia attack Odesa? For most of those who survived the attacks, the answer is unequivocal.

They are destroying us, our nation, the Ukrainian people. We live with fear next door,” Olexander said.

“They want to capture us, take us to Russia, and cut off Ukraine from the sea,” Ihor said.

According to the head of the Odesa regional military administration, Oleh Kiper, Russia aims to make what it seeks to conquer uninhabitable.

“They do not spare missiles, in particular, Iskander-M, which is not a cheap weapon. However, we understand that a country that was preparing to fight against the whole world still has many of them. And they do not hesitate to use them to destroy the civilian population. There are some attacks where we cannot even logically understand why they were carried out. When civilians are walking, during rush hour, and already within a radius of 500 meters are destroyed. Similar attacks occurred in Chernomorsk when a child was killed. This is genocide,” Kiper said.

Often, Russia manages to achieve its goal – many residents of Odesa have left the city, resulting in fewer people than usual on the summer streets of this southern city, famous for its history, culture, and tourist attractions.

But Russia also targets the port infrastructure, causing a shortage of personnel due to panic, which could disrupt Ukrainian exports.

“The economic component was very important for us, to ensure the inflow of foreign currency through grain exports. The port plays a big role. The good thing is that this part was decentralized in our country – the ports on the Danube worked, as well as the ports of Odesa. It is obvious that they have not yet managed to disrupt deliveries from the port,” Balynsky said.

However, Odesans keep going. Even during the alarms, Odesans keep their businesses open, relax on the beach, and work in the port.

“The Russians expected that the civilian population would fall into despair, put pressure on the authorities, saying, let's negotiate. And now they expect that this terror, pressure on civilians, will yield some results,” Balynsky said. “And their propaganda still cannot understand the difference between Russia and Ukraine. We will not be like them. The more they push and kill, the more prepared we are to fight further.”

Olexander is one of those who refuse to give up. With his wife, daughter, and many neighbors, they’ve returned to their damaged house and are making repairs. They say that nothing can make them leave their home and city.

“We miraculously survived here. And we came to spend the night here on the fourth day. My wife says I want to go home. So we went home. That’s the kind of people we are. And I am glad that I am now standing, breathing, talking,” he said.

Kiper said that whatever is destroyed can be restored. The main thing is to stop regular Russian strikes. He and many other Odesans are hoping Western aid and air defense will come soon.

“Give us more weapons, give us more air defense forces, and you won't need to repair or rebuild anything, just close our skies,” Kiper said.

Meanwhile, the Odesans do what they can to repair the damage and live normal lives – until the next air raid alarm.