Russian missile strikes near Zelenskyy and Greek leader in Odesa

Delegation narrowly escaps an attack during a tour of Black Sea city

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visit a makeshift memorial to the victims of previous day's drone strike that heavily damaged an apartment building, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa. Reuters
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A Russian missile struck close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis while they were visiting the port city of Odesa on Wednesday.

The missile struck “very close” to the two leaders, said Mr Mitsotakis, during their inspection of the city's port, which is crucial to Ukrainian exports.

This incident resulted in the death of five people, Ukraine's navy spokesman Dmytro Pletenchuk said.

The Russian Defence Ministry claimed the strike hit a hangar that housed sea drones used by Ukraine against Russian naval forces in the Black Sea.

“We saw the explosion today,” Mr Zelenskyy said. "They don’t care where to hit.

"I know that there were victims today."

The attack occurred just moments after the two leaders and their delegations had left Odesa's harbour, where Mr Zelenskyy was showing the damage inflicted by Russia's continuous attacks.

The port's importance to Ukraine, especially as the full-scale war enters its third year, was a key discussion point.

“A little later, as we entered into our cars, we heard a large explosion,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

A Greek official estimated the explosion occurred about 300 metres from their motorcade, prompting Mr Mitsotakis to call on more European leaders to experience the reality of war in Ukraine first-hand.

“That’s another reason that all European leaders should visit Ukraine."

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said on social media that the attack during the two leaders' visit was “another sign of Russia’s cowardly tactics in its war of aggression against Ukraine".

“The EU’s full support to Ukraine and its brave people will not waver,” Mr Michel said.

Similar sentiments were echoed by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, condemning Moscow’s actions as a “new attempt at terror” and reaffirming the EU’s support for Ukraine.

Mr Mitsotakis's trip was his first since the Russian invasion began, and symbolised the respect for Ukraine's resilience and Greece's solidarity, he said.

Odesa was chosen for its historical significance to Greece.

“My presence here reflects the respect of the entire free world for your people and underlines Greece’s commitment to remain by your side,” he said.

He stressed the city's role in Greece's struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.

The backdrop of escalating aerial assaults by Russia and Ukraine added to the visit's urgency.

Russia has drawn international condemnation for its bombing campaigns in Ukraine.

Updated: March 07, 2024, 7:22 AM