Beaches have officially opened for swimming in Ukraine’s largest port city of Odesa for the first time since the full-scale Russian invasion began in February 2022, local officials announced Saturday.
Bathing during air raid alerts, however, remains banned in the Black Sea city.
Odesa has seen relentless waves of Russian attacks over the last 17 months, filling the waters with sea mines and leading officials to close the stretch of sandy beaches and holiday resorts once popular with Ukrainian and foreign vacationers.
However, despite officially banning swimming since the start of the war, some people have continued to do so.
The city’s beaches were further tarnished in June when filthy waters from the collapse of the Russia-controlled Nova Kakhovka dam washed downstream, posing what the Odesa municipality described as a “genuine threat” to the health of residents.
The head of the Odesa region military administration, Oleh Kiper, said several “swimming and recreation areas” would open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time in a post on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday, adding that more beaches would open up as inspections were completed.
Kiper said lifeboats and mesh fences to protect against explosive ordnance would be required in open swimming areas, adding divers would be sent to inspect the Black Sea waters if necessary. Daily coastal cleaning will also take place, he said.
In a Telegram post, Odesa’s municipality said air raid shelters were available near the reopened swimming spots, with shelter locations indicated on information boards at the beaches.
But while Odesa Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said it was the administration’s responsibility “to prepare all the necessary infrastructure,” he added, “in my personal opinion, beach vacations — as recreation — are a bit out of time while our defenders are fighting for every meter of Ukrainian land.”