Ukraine claims responsibility for striking Russian Navy headquarters in Crimea

A satellite image shows smoke billowing from a Russian Black Sea Navy headquarters after a missile strike, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Sevastopol, Crimea, Sept 22, 2023. [Reuters]

Ukraine claimed responsibility for a missile attack Friday on the headquarters of Russia's navy in Crimea, delivering a major blow for Moscow as it suffers a string of attacks on the strategically significant port in recent months.

"The headquarters of the fleet have been hit in an enemy attack," said Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol.

Video footage on social media showed plumes of thick smoke coming out of the Russian naval headquarters in the region.

"Ukraine's defense forces launched a successful attack on the headquarters of the command of the Black Sea fleet of Russia in the temporarily occupied Sevastopol," the Ukrainian army said on Telegram.

According to Russia's defense ministry, one serviceman was missing. The ministry reported that its historic headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet were damaged.

The Crimean Peninsula was simultaneously hit by an "unprecedented cyberattack" on its internet providers, said Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser to the Crimea governor.

Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval facilities in Crimea in recent weeks, while the brunt of its summer counteroffensive makes slow gains in the east and south of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War said Thursday.

Military experts say it is essential for Ukraine to keep up its attacks on targets in Crimea to degrade Russian morale and weaken its military.

The attack came a day after Russia pounded cities across Ukraine with missiles and artillery strikes, killing at least five people.

A Russian attack injured 13 people in a town west of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, close to Ukraine's eastern front, a local official said early Friday.

Two airstrikes on the town caused a fire, Roman Padun, the administrative head of the town of Kurakhove, told public broadcaster Suspilne.

Russia and Ukraine have recently experienced "unusually intense" attacks "deep behind their lines," the British Defense Ministry said Friday in its daily intelligence update on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In the last four days, the ministry said there have been reports of explosions at Russian logistics sites, air bases and command posts in Crimea, the Russian Krasnodar region and near Moscow.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said Thursday that Russian forces carried out aerial attacks on multiple cities overnight, killing at least two people.

Ukraine's military described the Russian action as a "massive missile attack on the civilian infrastructure of a number of regions."

Oleksandr Prokudin, the regional governor of Kherson, said a Russian strike hit a residential building, killing two people and injuring five others.

Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv's military administration, said on Telegram that debris fell on the Ukrainian capital after air defenses shot down Russian missiles.

Kyiv Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said seven people were injured and several buildings were damaged.

In northeastern Ukraine, the regional governor of Kharkiv, Oleh Syniehubov, said at least six Russian strikes hit the city of Kharkiv and damaged civilian infrastructure.

Russia said Thursday it destroyed 19 Ukrainian drones over the annexed Crimean Peninsula and nearby Black Sea.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it downed three Ukrainian drones over the Kursk, Belgorod and Orlov regions of Russia.

Poland tensions

On Friday, Poland's prime minister told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy not to "insult" Poles, sustaining harsh rhetoric toward Kyiv despite the Polish president's efforts to defuse a dispute over grain imports.

Brewing tensions between Poland and Ukraine over grain imports will not significantly affect good bilateral relations, Polish President Andrzej Duda said Friday at a business conference. "I have no doubt that the dispute over the supply of grain from Ukraine to the Polish market is an absolute fragment of the entire Polish-Ukrainian relations."

Tensions have been growing between Poland and Ukraine since Warsaw started it's temporary ban on imports of grain from Ukraine to protect Polish farmers.

Ukraine pushed for a deal with Poland Thursday to end the grain restrictions.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Zelenskyy said Kyiv is working to preserve land routes for the export of grain, but he added that the "political theater" surrounding the import of grain only helps Moscow.

"I ... want to tell President Zelenskyy never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the U.N.," Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was quoted as saying by state-run news agency PAP.

Poland said Thursday it will only supply Ukraine with previously agreed upon deliveries of ammunition and armaments.

The statement from a government spokesperson came a day after Morawiecki announced an end to weapons transfers to Ukraine as Poland works to arm itself "with the most modern weapons."

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