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Russia strikes Odesa, damaging museum, injuring 8

06 November 2023

Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) -

Russian strikes overnight in the southern Ukrainian region of Odesa left eight people wounded and damaged a historic art museum, Ukrainian officials said on Monday, in the latest barrage of drones and missiles.

Three more were injured in a Russian shelling attack on the southern city of Kherson on Monday, as Kyiv doubled down on its warnings that Russia was planning to pummel Ukraine's energy infrastructure ahead of the winter.

Images released by officials from inside the Odesa Fine Arts Museum showed art ripped from the walls of the 19th-century building and windows blown out by the aerial bombardment.

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister Emine Dzheppar said Kyiv was 'deeply outraged' by the attack and urged the United Nations' Paris-based heritage agency UNESCO to condemn the strike.

UNESCO said it 'strongly condemns the attack' and that 'cultural sites must be protected'.

Kyiv said earlier that Russian forces had launched four missiles and nearly two dozen attack drones from occupied regions of the country in the south overnight.

Ukraine's military downed 15 drones and one of the missiles, it said in a statement.

The gallery said on social media the attack had occurred on the museum's 124th birthday and the facility would be closed until further notice.

The governor of the Odesa region, Oleg Kiper, said most of the collection had already been removed during the war.

'Canvases and paintings from the current exhibition were not damaged,' he added on social media.

A woman who lived in a nearby building said she and her family were away during the strike but their home had been damaged.

'God led us away. We'll see what happens in the flat next. Out of five windows, I have none left,' the woman, who gave her name only as Svitlana, told AFP.

- Fears for winter -

Interior Minister Igor Klymenko meanwhile said the overnight attacks had also damaged 20 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities.

Eight people were wounded in the Odesa region, he said.

Fears are building in Ukraine that Moscow will again launch systematic attacks on energy facilities as it did last winter, leaving millions without regular heating or light.

'The winter is going to be really challenging. RF (Russian Federation) will continue to attack our energy infrastructure. RF is preparing, so we must be prepared too,' Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelensky's office said on social media.

In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt published Monday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was bracing for 'the worst winter ever'.

'I bought dozens of candles and my father bought a truck full of firewood,' he said.

The southern region of Kherson was also targeted in an overnight missile strike and came under renewed artillery fire.

Three were injured in shelling on Monday morning, the head of the Kherson city council said.

Governor Oleksandr Prokudin posted footage of a five-storey building with most of its windows shattered and its walls partially collapsed after the overnight missile strike.

'It is a miracle that no one was seriously injured,' Prokudin said, specifying that a 54-year-old woman had been wounded.

Ukraine recaptured large parts of Kherson from Russian forces last year, including the region's main city, but Moscow still controls swathes of the Black Sea territory.

Kyiv has been urging Western allies to buttress Ukraine's air defence systems ahead of a feared intensification of Russian strikes during the winter months.

Separately, Ukraine on Monday confirmed 19 soldiers from the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade had been killed during an attack last week.

Media reports said the attack on Friday took place during an award ceremony in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukraine's western Zakarpattia region, where the assault brigade is based, will observe a three-day period of mourning starting on Monday, local governor Victor Mykyta said.

Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigation said it had opened a criminal investigation of negligence into the 'actions of the military officials' who organised the event so close to the front line.