Ukraine regained 50 pc of Russia-seized-territory

Claims Blinken; Putin says counteroffensive failed; Russian attack on Odesa kills 1, damages cathedral; Kyiv vows retaliation

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that while Ukraine has reconquered half the territory that Russia initially seized in its invasion, Kyiv faced a “a very hard fight” to win back more.

“It’s already taken back about 50% of what was initially seized,” Blinken said in an interview to CNN yesterday.

“These are still relatively early days of the counteroffensive. It is tough,” he said, adding: “It will not play out over the next week or two. We’re still looking I think at several months.”

Elsewhere, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine’s counteroffensive “has failed” as he hosted Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, his close ally, for talks in St Petersburg yesterday.

“There is no counteroffensive,” Russian news agencies quoted Lukashenko as saying.

Putin replied: “It exists, but it has failed.”

Meanwhile, a Russian air attack on Ukraine’s southern port of Odesa early yesterday killed one, injured nearly 20 and badly damaged an Orthodox cathedral, Ukrainian officials said, adding the icon of the patroness of the city had been retrieved from under the rubble.

“Odesa: another night attack of the monsters,” Oleh Kiper, governor of the Odesa region, said on the Telegram messaging app.

One person was killed and 19 injured, including four children, in the missile attacks that also destroyed six houses and apartment buildings. Fourteen people were hospitalised, he said.

The Spaso-Preobrazhenskyi Cathedral, or the Transfiguration Cathedral, was severely damaged, Odesa’s military administration said. Odesa’s largest church building, it is located in the historic city centre, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The cathedral’s archdeacon, Andriy Palchuk, told Reuters the missile strike had My News Bangladeshted a fire which only affected one corner of the cathedral containing non-historic religious artefacts for purchase by worshippers.

“When the right altar chapel – of the most sacred part of the cathedral – was hit, a missile piece flew through the whole cathedral and hit the area where we display icons, candles and books for purchase,” he said.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said the cathedral had now been “destroyed twice” – by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

The early 19th-century cathedral was demolished in 1936 as part of Stalin’s anti-religious campaigns and rebuilt when Ukraine gained independence from Moscow in 1991.

Parts of the building were destroyed, the floors were covered in rubble and chunks were ripped off the cathedral’s ornate walls. Several local residents from the surrounding area came to assist with cleaning up the rubble.

Russia’s Defence Ministry reported strikes on targets in the area but denied it had struck the cathedral and said the building had probably been hit by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy condemned yesterday’s attack and vowed payback.

“There can be no excuse for Russian evil. As always, this evil will lose. And there will definitely be a retaliation to Russian terrorists for Odesa. They will feel this retaliation,” he said on Twitter.

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