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Ukraine officials accuse Russia of shelling homes in Odesa

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Odesa turns to network of tunnels to shelter from looming attack' Russia-Ukraine conflict: Odesa turns to network of tunnels to shelter from looming attack
WATCH: Russia-Ukraine conflict: Odesa turns to network of tunnels to shelter from looming attack – Mar 21, 2022

Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of shelling residential homes in a Black Sea port city on Monday.

The Odesa city council said no one was killed in the strike, which caused a fire that was quickly put out by emergency services. It was the first such attack on the city since the war began on Feb. 24.

Read more: Russian soldiers opened fire at rally in Kherson to disperse crowd, Ukraine says

Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov visited the site shortly after the reported strikes and said residents will defend it.

“These are residential buildings where peaceful people live,” he said. “We will not leave Odesa and we will fight for our city.”

Click to play video: 'Odesa residents hide from war again' Odesa residents hide from war again
Odesa residents hide from war again – Mar 22, 2022

Odesa is in southwestern Ukraine and has largely avoided the fighting so far, though Russia has ships operating off the Black Sea coast.

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A private house is partially destroyed as a result of Russian warships shelling the outskirts of Odesa on March 21. Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP via Getty Images

Russia has denied targeting civilians throughout the conflict, though many have been killed in intense shelling of Ukrainian cities.

Elsewhere in Ukraine on Monday, officials defied a Russian demand that its forces lay down arms before dawn in Mariupol, where thousands of civilians have been trapped in a city destroyed by Russian bombardment.

Russia’s war on Ukraine, now in its fourth week, has stalled along most fronts. Russia has failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city, the capital Kyiv, or swiftly topple the government of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A view of a building damaged by shelling in Odesa, Ukraine on March 21. Max Pshybyshevsky/AP

Russia calls the war, which is the biggest attack on a European state since the Second World War, a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from “Nazis.”

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The West describes it as a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression to subdue a country Russian President Vladimir Putin describes as illegitimate.

Read more: Ukrainian civilians prepare to fight as Russian troops close in on Odesa

The UN human rights office said said on Monday it had recorded 2,421 civilian casualties in Ukraine – 925 killed and 1,496 injured – as of midnight Sunday.

The UN refugee agency said 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced, including some 3.4 million who have fled to neighbouring countries such as Poland.

— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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