Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ukraine Strikes Russian Naval Ships at Black Sea Facility


Explosions tore through a shipyard at the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea before dawn on Wednesday, damaging at least two ships and setting off a blaze that continued to burn into the early morning, according to Russian officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that Ukraine had fired 10 cruise missiles at the facility in the city of Sevastopol at the same time as it targeted a Russian warship on the Black Sea with three maritime drones. Air defense systems shot down seven cruise missiles, and the patrol ship Vasily Bykov destroyed all the unmanned drones, the ministry said.

The rare acknowledgment of a successful Ukrainian attack came after local residents broadcast images of explosions and raging fires in the shipyard on social media. Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian-backed governor of Crimea, later shared a photo that appeared to show the port side of a Ropucha-class large landing ship that sustained damage. Ukrainian officials had no immediate comment on the strikes on Wednesday.

Mr. Razvozhayev said at least 24 people were injured at the Sevmorzavod shipyard. The initial explosions, and sounds of air defenses, were first reported at about 2 a.m.

The conflict on the Black Sea has escalated in the past few months, expanding another battlefront in the nearly 19-month old war in Ukraine. Ukraine has increasingly targeted Russian military operations, including bases, naval facilities and ammunition depots, on the Crimean peninsula, which Russia invaded in 2014 and illegally annexed. Moscow has ramped up attacks on Ukrainian ports, grain facilities and other civilian infrastructure since it backed out of a deal to allow Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea.

Crimea, which is connected to Russia by a single bridge that been repeatedly attacked, is home to Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet and provides a vital link in the Russian military’s supply chain that supports tens of thousands of soldiers now occupying a vast swath of southern Ukraine.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia views the territory as a prized possession, and since Moscow illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has studded the peninsula with military bases. It was used as a springboard for Russia to launch its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and Russia has since used it as a base to launch thousands of missiles and drones at Ukrainian towns and cities.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said that military facilities in Crimea are legitimate targets. For more than a year, Ukraine has targeted Russia’s bases there with drones, missiles and sabotage operations.

Last October, Ukraine struck the Russian naval base at Sevastopol with maritime drones. Kyiv has expanded its ability to strike at long range, and attacks have grown bolder and more sophisticated.

A Ukrainian maritime drone struck a Russian warship hundreds of miles from the coast in August, demonstrating the growing range and attack capabilities of the unmanned boats. The strike forced the Russian Navy to take new defensive measures to protect its fleet.

Despite the increase in Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, Russian officials have downplayed the strikes, suggesting that life has gone on as normal on the peninsula.



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