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Greek Foreign Minister Arrives On Aid Mission As Ukraine's Odesa Hit By Air Strikes

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service April 03, 2022

KIYV -- Amid air strikes and explosions in the Black Sea port of Odesa, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived on April 3 to deliver badly needed aid to the strategic city of 1 million people as the head of a humanitarian mission.

Dendias handed aid to city authorities and began plans to establish a regular flow of aid from Greece to Odesa after hopes of setting up a distribution base in Mariupol were derailed by the intense Russian bombardment that has reduced that port city to rubble.

Thousands of ethnic Greeks live in Mariupol, and at least 10 have been killed there since Russia began its attacks late last month. More than 150 Greek citizens and ship crews have been evacuated, Greek officials said.

In Odesa, Dendias met on April 3 with Mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov, the Greek Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

FM @NikosDendias met today w/ #Odessa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov. Discussion focused on the strong presence of Greek Diaspora in #Odessa, in light of the long-standing ties of Greece with the city, and the challenges it faces pic.twitter.com/A4P9IqfAS8
— Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών (@GreeceMFA) April 3, 2022

The "discussion focused on the strong presence of [a] Greek Diaspora in Odesa, in light of the long-standing ties of Greece with the city, and the challenges it faces," it said.

"The reopening of [Greece's] consulate will help distribute humanitarian aid and set up corridors for the Greek ethnic community to leave from any areas of Ukraine, if needed, via Odesa," Dendias said upon arrival, according to a Greek Foreign Ministry statement.

Odesa was targeted by air strikes early on April 3, Interior Ministry official Anton Herashchenko wrote in a post on Telegram.

"Fires were reported in some areas," he wrote. "Some of the missiles were shot down by air defense."

The Telegram channel of the Odesa city council confirmed the attacks.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Medinsky, the head of Russia's negotiating team in talks with Ukraine, posted on Telegram that the discussions had not made sufficient progress to merit a summit between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Medinsky also emphasized that "Russia's position on Crimea and Donbas remains UNCHANGED," referring to the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014 and the eastern Ukrainian regions that Moscow recognized as independent in the run-up to Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

A journalist with the French AFP news agency in Odesa reported hearing explosions at around 6 a.m. and seeing at least three columns of black smoke rising above an industrial part of the city.

Odesa, with a population of about 1 million, is the largest Black Sea port still under Ukrainian control.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 3 that it had struck on oil refinery and oil storage facilities near the city. The ministry said its forces had targeted 28 Ukrainian military facilities across the country.

On April 2, Zelenskiy warned that Russia was preparing "powerful strikes" in the south of the country as it withdrew forces from areas around Kyiv and Chernihiv in the north.

In an April 3 bulletin, Britain's Defense Ministry said Russia continues to blockade access to Ukraine through the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Russia "retains the capability to attempt an amphibious landing" along Ukraine's southern coast, "but such an operation is likely to be increasingly high risk due to the time Ukrainian forces have had to prepare," the ministry posted on Twitter.

The ministry added that "mines within the Black Sea pose a serious risk to maritime activity," saying the origin of the mines remained unknown.

In the embattled city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, some 100,000 civilians remain trapped and surrounded by Russian forces. Analysts believe Russia is intent on capturing the strategic port to create a land corridor from the Donbas region, which is partially controlled by Moscow-backed separatist formations supported by Russian troops, and the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on April 3 that seven buses would attempt to reach the city during the day, accompanied by representatives of the International Red Cross. In all, she said, 17 buses were attempting to evacuate civilians from Mariupol and the nearby port city of Berdyansk.

The attempt to reach Mariupol comes one day after the International Red Cross abandoned an attempt to send a convoy there because of the volatile military situation in the area.

Zelenskiy said Mariupol's resistance had given Ukraine "invaluable time" to retake territory in the north, "time that is allowing us to foil the enemy's tactics and weaken its capabilities."

"Peace will not be the result of any decisions the enemy makes somewhere in Moscow," Zelenskiy added. "There is no need to entertain empty hopes that they will simply leave our land. We can only have peace by fighting."

Zelenskiy accused retreating Russian forces of creating a "disaster" outside of Kyiv and of planting mines and booby traps across the country.

The mayor of the newly liberated Kyiv suburb of Bucha said on April 2 that some 300 local residents had been killed during the month that Russian forces held the town.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk told AFP that all of the victims had been "shot dead in the back of the head" and many of the bodies were buried in a mass grave.

Moscow, which launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, denied its forces were involved in the Bucha killings.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-odesa-air -strikes-greek-dendias/31783415.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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