A man walks past beach hotel destroyed in Ukrainian city of Odessa as a result Russian missile strike. AFP
The southern city was hit by a series of missiles Monday, destroying buildings, setting ablaze a shopping centre and killing one person, its city council said, just hours after a visit by European Council President Charles Michel.
As Russia stepped up its fight to seize Ukraine's east, US President Joe Biden resurrected a World War II measure to aid Kyiv, opening the spigots on artillery, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and other powerful Western materiel.
The United States has sent some $4 billion in military aid to Ukraine already but "caving to aggression is even more costly," Biden said as he signed the act, passed with unusual bipartisan support.
A Russian missile destroys the Grande Pettine Hotel in Odessa, Ukraine, on Sunday. AP
Missiles earlier rumbled through Moscow's Red Square as Russia's President Vladimir Putin sought to channel national pride on the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany into support for a war that has killed thousands and sent millions into exile.
On the ground in Ukraine, the governor of Lugansk reported "very serious battles" in the frontline areas of Bilogorivka and Rubizhne.
An AFP team reported seeing columns of trucks filled with soldiers and heavy equipment move down the main road leading away from the city of Severodonetsk — one of its last eastern strongholds against Russia — suggesting Ukraine was pulling back from some parts of the front.
This photo shows a destroyed beach hotel in Ukrainian city of Odessa. AFP
In the devastated southern port of Mariupol, pro-Russian separatists feted Victory Day, with leader Denis Pushilin and residents carried a giant black and orange ribbon of Saint George — a symbol of WWII celebrations in Russia — through a city that has seen some of the heaviest fighting since the invasion on February 24.
Full control of Mariupol would allow Moscow to create a land bridge between the Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, and eastern regions run by pro-Russian separatists.
Some have speculated that Putin was seeking to achieve that goal in time for Victory Day, but a small contingent of depleted Ukrainian forces continued their defence of a final bastion at the Azovstal steelworks.