Relentless Aggression: Odesa Amidst Russia’s War on Ukraine

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Firefighters put out a blazing fire in Odesa, Ukraine, June 2024. (Financial Times)

On 24 June 2024, the Russian Aerospace Forces launched missiles at the Ukrainian city of Odesa, injuring three people, including one nineteen-year-old boy.

The Ukrainian Air Force managed to prevent one of the two cruise missiles targeted at Odesa from striking the city, however, the missile that made contact in Odesa damaged a storage facility where at least fifty people were working. Firefighters fought the 3,000 square meter fire among an enormous smoke cloud. 5,000 square meters of Odesa was damaged.

Odesa is the third most populous municipality of the second largest European nation: Ukraine. It was the bombing of Odesa in February 2022 that resulted in a declaration of war from the Ukrainian government. 

Odesa was Tsarist Russia’s second most important port in the nineteenth century, and Putin wants it back. The city contains numerous historical artifacts integral to Russian history, thus cementing the claim in Putin’s administration that Ukraine should be theirs. However, it has belonged to Ukraine ever since a referendum in December 1991, which saw around 85% of people vote for Ukrainian independence. This statistic clearly demonstrates the pride the people of Odesa have in being Ukrainian.

Russia is launching numerous airstrikes on Ukrainian cities, killing and injuring hundreds of people, all in the name of liberating Ukrainians from a fascist government. However, as the conflict has progressed, more Russian soldiers are choosing to leave the fight, as a strong defense from Ukraine, paired with a precipitously declining level of morale, has discouraged the fight in Russian soldiers.

The high casualties and harsh conditions on the front lines, along with increasing domestic opposition to the war within Russia, with protests and dissent challenging the government’s narrative and calling for an end to the conflict, are continuously challenging Putin’s war on Ukraine.

Propaganda has played a significant role in the conflict, with both sides utilizing media to shape public perception. Russia’s narrative of liberating Ukrainians from a fascist government is countered by Ukraine’s portrayal of the invasion as an unprovoked act of aggression. Information warfare has become a crucial front in the conflict, with social media and news outlets being used to disseminate information and rally support. The digital battle is as important as the physical battles being fought on the ground, as this garners support from the public and other state actors.

Civilian casualties and the widespread displacement of Ukrainians exhibit the mounting human toll of the conflict. The recent missile attack on Odesa is a reminder of the indiscriminate fighting that has characterized this war. Homes are being decimated and lives are being lost in a clash that shows no signs of abating, as Ukraine defends tenaciously and Russia attacks hungrily. Humanitarian organizations are working tirelessly to provide aid to Ukrainians, but the scale of the crisis is overwhelming. 

As the conflict continues, the path forward remains uncertain. The international community’s role in facilitating dialogue and supporting reconstruction efforts will be vital in the post-conflict period, just as it has in history before. The resilience of the Ukrainian people and their commitment to sovereignty and independence remain a beacon of hope against the aggression and hunger of Putin’s Russia. Ultimately, a resolution to the conflict will require compromise, diplomacy, and a recognition of the human cost of continued violence, with a Russian commitment to forfeit interest in the region.

Written by Eshan Korat

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