Russian Strike’s Toll Rises to 12 as Zelensky Blames Air Defense Delay

By John Mercury March 5, 2024

Rescue workers in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa pulled the bodies of a mother and baby from the rubble of an apartment building on Sunday, as the death toll in a Russian attack two days earlier rose to 12. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said delays by allies in supplying air defenses had contributed to the deaths.

The denunciation by Mr. Zelensky appeared to reflect frustration that Ukraine’s capacity to resist Moscow’s military campaign and protect its own citizens has been undermined by the failure of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a multibillion-dollar military aid package.

A drone hit the building overnight on Friday, and since then emergency workers have been picking through its rubble. Odesa, a port city on the Black Sea, was a key initial target of Moscow’s full-scale invasion two years ago, and in recent months Russian forces have frequently targeted it with drone strikes, often launched from Crimea. This weekend’s attack, however, has caused particular outrage among Ukrainians.

Rescue workers said that the woman and baby were found together. “The mother tried to cover her 8-month-old child,” said a statement by the State Emergency Service posted on the Telegram social messaging service. “They were found in a tight embrace.”

The bodies of a 10-year-old boy and his 8-year-old sister were later found in the debris, the head of the regional military administration, Oleh Kiper, said on Telegram, bringing the death toll to 12. “Unspeakable, terrible grief for Odesa and all of Ukraine,” he said.

A 3-year-old girl was among eight people who had been wounded, Mr. Zelensky said in an overnight speech, in which he said that Ukrainian civilians had become more vulnerable because the country’s armed forces lacked air defenses that could shoot down the Shahed drones that Iran has supplied to Moscow.

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