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Explosions in Odessa as Russia regroups for attacks in east

As Russian troops pull out of areas around Kyiv, they are leaving a path of destruction in their wake. (Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)By Isabelle Khurshudyan, Rachel Pannett, Bryan Pietsch, Miriam Berger, Annabelle Timsit and Jennifer Hassan Today at 12:41 a.m. EDT|Updated today at 9:15 a.m. EDT

ODESSA, Ukraine — A series of explosions rocked Odessa early Sunday as Russia said its missiles struck an oil refinery and fuel storage facilities — the first strike on the strategic Black Sea city’s downtown as the war in Ukraine grinds into its 39th day.

The strikes come as Russian troops appear to be regrouping and shifting their focus, at least for now, away from the capital Kyiv, setting the stage for a new phase phase in the conflict — centered on the country’s south and east— that military analysts warn could be long and bloody. An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to prepare for “difficult fights” ahead in the besieged port city of Mariupol — where Moscow has been concentrating its firepower, vying for a strategic victory that would free up thousands of troops to fight elsewhere. Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday that Russia’s navy is strategically blockading the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to prevent Ukraine from rearming.

Meanwhile, as Ukrainian troops recapture territory around Kyiv, the scope of destruction left by Russian forces has been revealed. Burned-out vehicles and bodies line the streets of nearby towns such as Bucha, whichhad been at the forefront of Moscow’s unsuccessful attempt to encircle the capital and overthrow the government.

Zelensky had made an emotional plea for Western nations to send more missile defense systems and planes: “Every single Russia missile that has hit our cities, and every bomb that has been thrown onto our people, our children, will be a black mark on the history of those who made that decision — the decision on whether or not to assist Ukraine with modern weaponry.”

Here’s what to know

  • Russia’s chief negotiator on Sunday shut down the idea of a possible meeting between Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, a day after his Ukrainian counterpart said peace talks had advanced to the point where a sit-down between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders was possible.
  • The Red Cross on Sunday told The Post its team “remains en route to Mariupol,” where a Ukrainian official said it is set to escort seven buses to evacuate civilians. Similar attempts to reach Mariupol, where 100,000 people are trapped, failed due to unsafe conditions on the ground, the organization said.
  • A documentary filmmaker from Lithuania, Mantas Kvedaravicius, was killed on Saturday in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Ukrainian photojournalist Maksym Levin was found dead on the northern outskirts of Kyiv.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.

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