A Russian air attack on Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa on July 23, 2023, resulted in one person killed, nearly 20 injured, and severe damage to the Transfiguration Cathedral. The attack also caused destruction to several houses and apartment buildings.
- One person killed, and 19 injured, including four children.
- Six houses and apartment buildings destroyed.
- Fourteen people hospitalized.
Damage to the Transfiguration Cathedral
- The Spaso-Preobrazhenskyi Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site, was severely damaged.
- Missile strike caused a fire, mainly affecting a corner with non-historic religious artefacts.
- The cathedral’s archdeacon confirmed the missile hit the area where icons, candles, and books were displayed for purchase by worshippers.
- The cathedral has been “destroyed twice” – first during Stalin’s anti-religious campaigns in 1936, and now in this recent attack.
Response and Reactions
- President Volodymyr Zelenskiy condemned the attack and promised retaliation.
- Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered assistance in the cathedral’s reconstruction and condemned the Russian aggression.
- Russia’s Defence Ministry denied targeting the cathedral, stating it was hit by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile.
Attack Tactics and Background
Pro-Kremlin military bloggers have reported a change in Russia’s air attack tactics, using a combination of weapons in a “swarm” manner, making it more challenging to defend against.
- Russia used high-precision Onyx missiles and sea-to-shore Kalibr cruise missiles on Odesa.
- Air defence systems managed to destroy nine out of 19 missiles fired at Odesa and the surrounding region.
Odesa’s ports were crucial for Ukraine’s grain exports via a deal with Turkey and the UN. Russia’s attacks on Odesa followed its withdrawal from the agreement.
The Transfiguration Cathedral, linked to the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), has been targeted due to tensions between UOC and Russia’s Orthodox Church.
Previous Russian attacks were retaliation for a Ukrainian strike on a Russian-built bridge to Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.
The Russian attack on Odesa caused significant damage to the Transfiguration Cathedral and resulted in casualties and destruction of property. The situation remains tense, and the international community has condemned the aggression. Ukraine’s president has vowed retaliation against the Russian terrorists responsible for the attack.