Ukraine Situation Report: Landmark Odesa Hotel Pummeled By Missile Barrage

A Russian missile and drone attack on the Black Sea port city of Odesa early Monday left two people dead and badly damaged grain facilities and a well-known abandoned hotel, Ukrainian officials say.

The Ukrainian Air Force said Russia attacked the city with 12 Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles, two P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles and 19 Shahed 136/131 drones. One Kalibr and both Oniks missiles managed to evade air defenses, the Ukrainian Air Force said. The Russians have been using the Oniks in their secondary surface-strike role for attacks on Odesa and Mykolaiv.

One of the Russian missiles hit a grain warehouse, where the two people were killed, said Odesa Regional Military Administration head Oleh Kiper Monday on his Telegram channel.

In addition to hitting grain facilities, the attack damaged the vacant Odesa Hotel, a well-known waterfront landmark.

The hotel was completed and opened in 2001, according to the Odessa Journal. The 19-story building with a total area of 26,842 square meters had approximately 160 rooms. It closed in 2011, he publication reported.

Interestingly, current hotel owner Andrey Stavnitser said he didn’t much care for the high-rise building overlooking the Black Sea but was grateful there were no casualties there during the attack.

In a Monday post on his Facebook page, Stavnitser called it “a monument to carelessness and tastelessness – I didn’t like it as much as all Odesa residents, so I dreamed of finally reconstructing it.”

He said he “dreamed of building a beautiful, modern promenade in Odesa, with a concert hall (named, of course, Zhvanetsky), with a pier for cruise ships, with a rink in winter, bicycle paths, restaurants and shops. My city would finally have a waterfront. A place where you would like to visit on the weekend with your children – where tourists would like to visit and where sea trams would go, just like in Istanbul.”

Stavnitser said he “invested millions of dollars, bought a share from private investors and, despite the war, closed the deal with the state.”

He also said he “even selected several world urban planners and architects.”

“Everything will be,” he said. “We will rebuild it all. Don’t wait, you critters. Odesa will be as beautiful as you could never dream in your horrible nightmares. Thank God there were no casualties.”

The Odesa Hotel after a strike by Russian missiles. (Andrey Stavnitser Facebook)
The lower level of the hotel was damaged as well. (Andrey Stavnitser Facebook)
The Odesa Hotel suffered a tremendous amount of damage during the attack. (Andrey Stavnitser Facebook)

Despite damage to civilian structures, the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed it carried out attacks against military targets.

“Last night, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation launched a group strike with long-range precision weapons and strike drones against temporary deployment sites of foreign mercenaries and sabotage groups’ training points of the AFU,” the Russian MoD said. “All the facilities have been neutralized. The goal of the attack has been reached.”

Ukrainian authorities say the hotel was abandoned, but the Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel says that previous reports indicated at least some presence of Ukrainian troops there several months ago.

“Although some resources claim that the building was never used for military purposes, this is not entirely true: back in May, people in uniform were seen there, and for some reason generators were working at the ‘abandoned’ facility,” Rybar reported Monday. “However, there is no objective evidence of the destruction of manpower there during the night raid.”

We reached out to Stavnister for comment and will update this story with any pertinent information he provides.

Given the building’s height and location, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it could have been used as an observation post or to house sensors on the roof. It’s size could lend itself to other uses, but there is no known evidence of any of this.

Russia has been carrying out a sustained series of attacks on Ukrainian port and grain facilities on the Black Sea and the Danube River since July. Initially, they were tied to Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, according to Ukrainian officials. That followed Ukraine’s attack on the Kerch Bridge July 17. The Kremlin has denied a connection and the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) said it was hitting military targets. On Monday, however, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed the latest strike on Odesa was retaliation for its attack Friday on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea that killed dozens of Navy officers, including the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, which you can read more about later in this story. You can read more about the initial attack reporting here.

Given the ongoing Russian campaign against Ukraine’s port infrastructure and its belief that Ukrainian forces are training there while uncrewed surface vessel (USV) attacks on Crimea and Russian naval and shipping assets in the Black Sea are launched from Odesa, the city will remain high on Russia’s targeting list. The city’s prominence and coastal location also make it a top target, and the fact that it is now a significantly softer target than Kyiv doesn’t help.

Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

On the battlefield, Ukraine could achieve “an operationally significant breakthrough” on the southern front if several key factors take place, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment posted on Twitter:

  • Russian forces do not have the necessary reserves or combat power to maintain its defenses in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast;
  • Ukrainian forces retain enough combat power to continue pushing after exhausting Russian combat power;
  • Russian defensive positions behind the current battle area are not as heavily mined or well-prepared as the fortifications Ukraine has already breached.

ISW said it “continues to assess that the Russian military does not have sufficient forces deployed to western Zaporizhia to completely man its defenses in depth and that Ukrainian forces should be able to operate through Russian field fortifications more rapidly if they are not properly manned.”

Last week, Ukrainian Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov told us that Ukraine was pinning down Russian forces around Bakhmut to prevent them from reinforcing the southern front.

“… Russians recently redeployed their only reserve force – the 25th Army – which was just recently raised and hasn’t completed its creation,” the commander of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) told us. “Now it’s redeployed to roughly the north of Bakhmut and that’s the place where it’s going to be buried.”

He also said Russia has already committed the bulk of its reserves to defending against the counteroffensive, moving its vaunted paratroopers to backfill positions in Zaporizhzhia.

“All that they have already have been thrown into the fire,” Budanov told us. “And now all the backbone of current Russian airborne troops is in defense and trying to deter the movement of our offensive groupings in the south. Before that, there were units of the Russian 810th Naval Infantry Brigade. That brigade was completely defeated, completely smashed, and now they have withdrawn being replaced by airborne troops.”

You can read more on Budanov’s insights in our exclusive interview here.

ISW on Monday concurred with Budanov, saying Ukraine’s operations in Bakhmut “have kept Russian forces committed to eastern Ukraine and away from the southern front and helped deny the creation of a strategic reserve.”

It remains unclear, however, “if Ukrainian forces have enough reserve forces and combat power to continue conducting offensive operations in the south until the Russian defenses break to effectively exploit an operational breakthrough,” ISW said. “It also remains unclear how heavily mined or well-prepared the Russian positions south of the current battle area are.”

The Ukrainian counteroffensive “is in an extremely dynamic phase and ISW is not prepared to offer any confident forecast of events despite recent positive indicators.”

The Robotyne-Verbove salient sector of this front in particular remains hotly contested.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) on Monday said its forces “successfully repelled enemy attacks in the vicinity of the Robotyne settlement of the Zaporizhzhia region and continue to entrench themselves on the occupied borders.”

The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) said “units of the Russian grouping of troops, aviation, artillery, and heavy flamethrower systems have repelled two attacks” by Ukrainian forces near Verbove.

Crimean occupation Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev said Monday on his Telegram channel that Russian air defenses downed an unspecified missile near the Belbek airfield north of Sevastopol Monday night. Belbek has been targeted by Ukrainian in the past.

The Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel, however, went into greater detail, saying that Ukraine unleashed launched at least two Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles from Su-24 Fencer combat jets.

“Judging by the areas where the missiles hit, Ukrainian troops tried to strike airfields of the Aerospace Forces and Navy in Crimea,” Rybar said. “And while Storm Shadow/SCALP carriers remain in the air, the threat of repeated attacks remains.”

Budanov also told us that “you could not have missed that since the middle of August, there’s been a certain intensification going on with regard to Crimea.”

The alerts issued by Razvozhayev Monday appear to be the first under a new warning program instituted after the increasing attacks against Sevastopol.

Over the weekend, officials made decisions about when to activate he sirens and loudspeakers of the Regional Automated Centralized Public Warning System, Razvozhayev said Monday on his Telegram channel.

“At the moment the signal is received, you have from 30 to 50 minutes to calmly carry out all actions to take measures to ensure personal safety (go to shelters or stay at home, following the instructions),” he wrote. “As soon as we receive information about an air raid alert from the military, I personally give the command to launch the signal.”

The messages will be sent via his Telegram channel, as well as local TV and radio but not SMS, since text messages can take up to an hour to be delivered, he added, “and are not effective this in this case.”

In the wake of increasing Ukrainian attacks, Sevastopol Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev has created a new air raid warning system for that city. (Razvozhayev Telegram)

Speaking of the attack on Sevastopol, the Ukrainian Special Operations Command (SSO) confirmed earlier reports that Russian Adm. Viktor Sokolov, the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, was among dozens of officers killed.

“After the defeat of the headquarters of the Russian Armed Forces, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Armed Forces,” the SSO said Monday on its Telegram channel without specifically naming Sokolov. “Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored.”

In addition, The SSO said that 62 sailors aboard the Ropucha class landing ship Minsk were killed during the Sept. 13 attack on Sevastopol that also destroyed the Kilo class diesel-electric attack submarine Rostov-on-Don (B-237).

Cash-strapped Russian sailors, who have faced delayed paychecks, tipped off partisans in Crimea about “the location and activities of high-ranking Russian commanders,” the Kyiv Post reports.

The partisan movement of Ukrainians and Tatars in Crimea (ATESH), who helped plan the attack, told the Kyiv Post in an exclusive interview that it “obtained key information about the location and activities of high-ranking Russian commanders from cash-strapped officers in exchange for financial rewards.”

There’s more to this than just money, however.

“Delays in payments alone do not force the military armed forces of the Russian Federation to go against the Russian authorities,” a spokesperson for the group said, adding that those who help them also believe their country is “waging a criminal war and that it needs to stop.”

A Russian aviation regiment commander and several others were killed at an air base inside Russia by an exploding drone, Ukrainian intelligence claims.

The attack took place at the Khalino air field near Kursk, about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border. That’s the home of the 14th Zhdanov Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment, according to the Ukrainian news outlet.

Liga wrote that according to a source in the GUR, the drone was “allegedly intercepted by Russian electronic warfare near the airfield, and then ‘safely landed’ on the runway.”

The “leadership of the aviation regiment and FSB officers arrived to inspect it and take further photos,” the GUR source told Liga, but when the “delegation tried to inspect the ‘trophy’ UAV, a munition detonated.”

The GUR source said that in addition to the aviation regiment commander, the explosion also killed one of his deputies, “a group of aviation officers,” a Russian military counterintelligence (FSB) operative, and airfield workers.

One of the keys to successful armor operations is the ability to recover damaged or otherwise stuck vehicles. In that regard, equipment like the German-donated Bergerpanzer 3 Buffel armor recovery vehicles are unsung heroes in this war. You can see a Ukrainian Leopard 2A4 tank, reportedly stuck for three months near Robotyne, finally being recovered by a Bergerpanzer in the video below.

It seems the Russians will mount anything on the ubiquitous MT-LB tracked armor platform. The latest such innovation has the mating of a Russian RBU-6000 Smerch-2 multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) anti-submarine rocket to the MT-LB.

The system can fire projectiles at a range of a little over three miles, according to Military Ukraine, a semi-official defense website.

“Based on this, it can be assumed that the Russians will use the new installation as a short-range MLRS,” Military Ukraine reported.

Russia is apparently continuing its inflatable decoy tank game. This video below shows a Ukrainian drone coming upon at least three of the blow-up armor models designed to confuse the enemy and waste their munitions. In this case, the drone operators appeared not to be fooled.

FIM-92 Stinger man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) remain a helpful weapon for Ukraine. The troops in this video below used a Stinger to reportedly shoot down a Russian drone.

Speaking of Stingers, video has emerged of the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger short-range air defense system (SHORAD) reportedly downing a Russian cruise missile. Late last year, the U.S. provided 20 Avengers, which are armed with Stinger missiles.

Speaking of donated SHORADs, check out this video showing a British-supplied Stormer armed with Starstreak High-Velocity Missiles (HVM), hurtling down the road somewhere in Ukraine. SHORADs at the front are badly needed to keep Russian attack helicopters and drones at bay.

And finally, stepping gingerly among rubble, a Russian soldier walks around a destroyed Kamaz-63969 Typhoon mine-resistant, ambush protected six-wheeled armored vehicle somewhere in Luhansk Oblast.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.