Ukraine live briefing: 3 injured in Odessa attacks; Chinese defense minister to visit Belarus, Russia

In this photo supplied by the Defense Forces for Southern Ukraine on Monday, firefighters work to put out a fire in a supermarket during a Russian drone and missile strike in Odessa. (Defence Forces Southern Ukraine/via REUTERS)

Russia attacked Odessa in “three waves” overnight, launching attack drones and cruise missiles at the heart of the southern Ukrainian city, according to the regional governor. Three people were injured by debris from rockets being shot down, Oleh Kiper said.

China’s defense minister will visit Russia and Belarus this week, the Chinese defense ministry said. It will be Li Shangfu’s first trip to Belarus and second to Russia since he took office earlier this year.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Russia launched Kalibr missiles and Iranian-made Shahed drones at Odessa overnight, Kiper and the Ukrainian air force said. Ukrainian forces managed to shoot them all down before they reached their intended target in the “center” of Odessa, Kiper said. But debris fell on a supermarket, a residential building and a school dormitory, and three supermarket employees were injured, he said. The blast also damaged windows and cars nearby, and started fires in three facilities, he said.

Li Shangfu will visit Russia and Belarus from Aug. 14 to 19, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian confirmed at a Monday briefing. Li is expected to speak at the Moscow Conference on International Security and meet with Russian defense officials. In Minsk, Li is scheduled to meet and hold talks with Belarusian state and military leaders, as well as visit Belarusian military institutions.

Kyiv called on the international community to protect trade through the Black Sea after a Russian warship shot at a Ukraine-bound cargo vessel on Sunday. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Russian patrol ship Vasily Bykov used automatic weapons to fire “warning” shots on a Palau-flagged bulk carrier after its captain failed to respond to a request to halt for an inspection. The Sukru Okan was later freed after an inspection by Russian forces and allowed to sail on to the Ukrainian port city of Izmail, the ministry said on Telegram. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said the incident — a first since Russia withdrew from a U.N.-brokered grain deal last month — violated international law, Reuters reported, and called on other countries to “take decisive action to prevent” such incidents.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mourned the loss of a family killed in attacks in the Kherson region, including a 3-week-old infant, her mother and her 12-year-old brother. Zelensky said in his nightly address that seven people were killed in the relentless attacks against Kherson on Sunday, with “17 reports of shelling” across the region by 6 p.m.

Britain’s Defense Ministry reported an “uptick in small-scale combat” along parts of the Dnieper River. In the past week, “Ukrainian forces have worked to raid or set up small bridgeheads at new locations on the Russian-held east bank” of the Dnieper in southern Ukraine, the ministry said. Ukrainian forces also expanded a bridgehead it has held since June, probably taking advantage “of a local Russian force rotation” to do so, the ministry said. According to the ministry, this leaves Russia’s military leadership with a choice: Reinforce the areas around the Dnieper to try to quash the attacks, or deploy more troops farther to the east, where “Ukraine’s main counter-offensive operations” are taking place. This comes as Ukraine’s counteroffensive has yielded few visible gains.

Ukraine is desperate for help in demining its land, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in an interview with the Guardian, calling Ukraine “the most heavily mined country in the world.” Countries that are uncomfortable providing lethal aid could instead help with mine-clearing equipment and training, he suggested.

A drone damaged an apartment building in the western Russian city of Belgorod, injuring a child, a Russian official said. Belgorod’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, blamed Ukraine for the attack, which he said left a 10-year-old girl who was walking nearby with wounds on her leg, forearm and foot. Gladkov said the strike damaged apartments, cars and one other building.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed reservations about a possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. “Decisions must always be carefully considered. And I will continue to do that,” Scholz said Sunday in an interview with broadcaster ZDF. Scholz’s comments follow reports by Spiegel last week that Germany’s defense ministry is mulling sending stocks of the Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. Berlin has long been hesitant to make the transfers for fear that the missiles, which have long-range capability, would be used on Russian territory.

Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, arrived in Kyiv on Monday for “very concrete” talks about Germany’s support to Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported. This is Lindner’s first visit to Ukraine since the war began. In Kyiv, he told reporters, “Ukraine must not lose this war,” according to AFP.

Wagner’s prisoner of war: A Ukrainian soldier’s 46-day nightmare: Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries captured Ilia Mykhalchuk outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. They amputated his arms in a dark basement, he says, and subjected him to mind-bending psychological abuse as part of his captors’ alleged barbarism and efforts to break the will of Ukrainian soldiers they had taken off the battlefield, Alex Horton reports.

Wagner’s strategy, Mykhalchuk said, appeared designed to undermine the Ukrainians’ values and to make them question how their countrymen would view them after release from captivity. “They tried to make us believe that we couldn’t trust each other, and that it was a kill-or-be-killed situation,” he said. “They were just playing with us, the way a cat plays with a mouse — when he catches it before he kills it.”

Kate Brady contributed to this report.

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